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For homebuyers, settlement day is like graduation – a day when you begin a new chapter of your life. In this case, however, you are not receiving a diploma, but the keys to your new home.

Just like any big day, the end of settlement can either get you excited or stress you out, making it important to not only have your finances in order, but also your head. Even though you may not be present for the moment itself, there are still documents you have to sing (not to mention understand), as well as fees to be paid.  No matter what your state of mind, it makes sense to know what really happens on settlement day.

Before we discuss what you can do to prepare for the big day, let us first tackle what settlement day is.

What is property settlement?

Settlement is the legal process wherein a property's ownership is transferred from the seller to the buyer.

There are different regulations and procedures in each state regarding how a property can legally be transferred to a new owner. Therefore it is important to have a solicitor or a conveyancer available to ensure that you handle this complex process correctly.

The specific date of settlement will be outlined in the sales contract, and the settlement period may range from 30 to 90 days or longer, depending on what is agreed upon by you and your seller.

What should your conveyancer do prior to the settlement day?

During the days or weeks leading to your settlement day, there are a number of things your conveyancer will have to do, first of which is analysing the contract of sale.

The solicitor will make sure that there is an ample amount of time between the financial approval date of your mortgage and the proposed date of settlement. Additionally, the solicitor will check all clauses and make sure that each is being met by both parties.

Your solicitor will also conduct a background check on the property to make sure any existing mortgages for the property are already settled. The solicitor will also see to it that there are no debts legally held against the property.

Lastly, your solicitor will inspect the property to assure that measurements and boundaries are aligned with the certificate of title.

What preparations do you need to make before the big day?

There are a couple of things you will have to accomplish before you can settle down in your new home. On top of the list is inspecting the property yourself to guarantee that everything is in its place and in good condition.

Before the house is turned over to you, you will have to check the following things: appliances like the heating and cooling systems, the hot water system, walls, light fittings, window and floor coverings, locks, keys, and automatic garage door controls. The goal for the inspection is to make sure that the property is in the very same condition it was in when it was sold to you.

This is also the time to seek out building and contents insurance, which should ideally take effect starting from the purchase date.

The most important to-do on your list is to ready your finances. On settlement day, you will be paying the initial deposit on your home, as well as other fees like stamp duty and lenders mortgage insurance.

What happens on the day

On the settlement day, your solicitor or settlement agent will meet with your lender and seller to exchange legal documents. Ideally, you and your seller can opt to not attend the meeting, as all the tasks needed to be accomplished will be taken care of by your representations.

The representatives for parties, alongside the lender, will organise the funds needed to purchase the property. The lender will register a mortgage against the title of the new property and will provide the funds to be paid to the seller.

The purchase price of the property could be readjusted during the process to allow for expenses that have already been paid. For instance, the buyer may have to compensate the seller for council rates if the latter paid for them in advance. This could also apply to payments for water and corporate fees.

The buyer's solicitor will then check if the current mortgage on the title to the vendor is settled and if any third party who has the rights to the property is removed. If you are the buyer, this means that your solicitor will receive, on your behalf, the property title and will officially register you as its new owner.

It will also be your responsibility to pay the land transfer duty. Once this is done, the title of the property will be officially transferred to you.

Where can things go wrong?

While hiccups rarely happen prior to settlement day, there are still factors which can delay the process.

Some situations that you may encounter are missing documents, no-show conveyancers, delayed cheque issuances, and other unforeseen circumstances that may affect you financially.

Financing is the most important thing to in the settlement process, so it would be wise for you to build a buffer when settling on a settlement date to ensure your stability.

The key here is to be prepared and ready to avoid things going off track.

What happens the day after?

After the settlement, your lender will debit the amount they have paid at settlement from your loan account. Additionally, your lender will send you a confirmation of your loan amount and repayments.

Once settlement has bee finished and the keys have been released, you can begin the process of moving into your new home and (hopefully) settling into your dream house.