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Do I Need a Conveyancer to Buy a House or Can I Do It Myself?

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Congratulations, you’ve found your dream property, a home that’s perfect for you and your family. What now? There are numerous administrative and financial tasks that will need to be addressed, and this is where engaging a conveyancing solicitor or conveyancer can help, but is it a necessity?

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process necessary to facilitate the transaction of buying or selling a house or real estate. Put simply, a conveyancer is a professional who understands this process as well as the legal landscape surrounding property sales and property law.

Conveyancing involves the preparation, verification and lodgment of an array of legal documents needed for transferring ownership of a home or property, as well as preparing that home or property for settlement.

Conveyancing Process

This process is quite complex and can be broken down into three broad stages:

  • Pre-contractual stage;
  • pre-completion stage; and
  • post-completion stage.

It’s important to keep in mind that making an error at any stage can result in a voided contract. This has caused home buyers to lose their dream homes and in some extreme circumstances, forfeiting their deposit.

A professional conveyancer can also assist their client with other stages related to purchasing property, from the sale process such as arranging various inspections and surveys or getting rid of outstanding utility rates that are associated with the building.

How much will conveyancing cost you?

Often the factor that is granted the most weight when somebody is deciding on a conveyancer to engage, it’s important to understand how much you are willing to spend on a conveyancer before you begin your search.

The cost of a conveyancer will often depend on several factors, keeping in mind that their operation can range from self-employed to working at a large law firm. The services they offer can also vary which will ultimately vary their price.

As a rough estimate, you should expect to pay somewhere between $500 to $2,500 depending on the above variables. You should find that most conveyancers will charge a flat fee whilst also charging you based on disbursement costs.

Here’s a list of some common costs to expect from a property purchase (among an array of other potential costs depending on your circumstances):

  • Conveyancing fees: $500-$2,500
  • Title search: up to $20-100
  • Council searches/certificates: $100-$1,000
  • Title registration and transfer: $50-$200
  • Settlement fees: up to $80
  • General clerical fees: up to $50

These costs are purely estimates and it’s always recommended to ask your chosen conveyancer for a breakdown of their costs.

An alternative: DIY conveyancing kits

If you ultimately decide to go down the path of DIY conveyancing, purchasing a DIY conveyancing kit can help. These kits are generally priced quite low, ranging from $50-$200 and often include the following:

  • Step-by-step conveyancing guide
  • Contract of sale
  • Relavant forms and documentation
  • List of agencies involved in the trasaction and their contact details
  • Glossary of terms

Whilst these kits are cost-effective and can be handy to somebody going through the process on their own, you will be held responsible for any mistake you make and mistakes during the conveyancing process often prove to be detrimental and costly.

Who does conveyancing in Australia?

Generally, there are two options you have when choosing a conveyancing professional, you can opt to engage either a solicitor or a conveyancer. The choice is completely yours and it’s always recommended to ask your chosen professional what their credentials are.

Is DIY conveyancing suitable for you?

When deciding whether to conduct your own conveyancing process or engage a professional, there are several factors that are important to consider, including:

Money

With all other variables aside, if you feel confident and comfortable handling your own conveyancing process, you can reap the benefits by skipping conveyancing fees. Whilst your savings will be limited to the above fees, you’ll still need to pay the disbursement costs so keep that in mind.

Time

One downside of DIY conveyancing is the time it takes. You need to remember that when you engage a conveyancer, you aren’t simply paying for their expertise but also their time. DIY conveyancing is known to be time consuming when undertaking tasks like reviewing contracts, conducting title searches and filling in documents.

Industry Knowledge

Conveyancers and solicitors have unparalleled industry knowledge, their skill and experience must be considered when you are contemplating DIY conveyancing. This is mostly important when unexpected situations arise, experienced solicitors and conveyancers have likely encountered every situation imagineable and can smoothly guide you through unforeseen circumstances.

Protection

Costly errors can arise when somebody without adequate skills or experience attempts to handle their own conveyancing. If you opt to take the route of DIY conveyancing, there is no recourse to recover financial loss should you make a mistake. However, licensed conveyancers will hold professional indemnity insurance which will keep you indemnified should something go wrong. The very thought of this alone should also make for a less-stressful conveyancing experience.

Transparency

Having total visibility of each and every transaction during the conveyancing process is another benefit of DIY conveyancing. This means you will have the opportunity to read every contract, title and certificate while being involved at every step and decision.

However, should you find an honest, experienced conveyancer to handle the process, the element of transparency will remain. A decent conveyancer will keep you involved at every step of the process and make you feel as though you are in full control while doing the bulk of the work for you.

Conveyancer or solicitor, what's the difference?

Firstly, both conveyancers and solicitors are trained, accredited professionals. However, in comparison to solicitors, conveyancers are often limited in the services that they are able to provide during the conveyancing process. One key difference is that an accredited conveyancer who is not a practicing solicitor is not able to provide legal advice or assist you with the terms of your contracts.

Further, a solicitor is able to provide assistance in the event a legal dispute arises whereas a conveyancer is not licensed to do so.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that in Queensland and the ACT, all conveyancers must also be solicitors, whereas in every other state or territory you will have the option to choose between the two.

What else can a solicitor do for me when buying or selling property?

Aside from assisting with the conveyancing process, here is a list of other helpful services that a lawyer can provide when you engage them during the buying or selling of a property:

  • Analysing contracts to ensure there are no unfair terms of surprise clauses;
  • advising you of any risks associated with the purchase;
  • formally requesting extensions to certain due dates you may be contracted to, including financial obligations or any building and pest inspections;
  • conducting searches to determine whether there is any developments or major infrastructure planned in the surrounding area;
  • in the event any inspection uncovers a defect, helping you negotiate a discount on the purchase price of the property;
  • conducting due diligence such as land contamination searches;
  • continuously liaising with the other party in order to address any issues that arise prior to settlement;
  • carefully explaining concepts to the client such as land tax, mortgage insurance and any other liabilities.

Frequently asked questions

Finding the right conveyancer takes time. It’s important to ask as many questions as you can before agreeing to engage a professional. Treat it as an interview and don’t be afraid to ask too many questions, conducting your due diligence at this step is just as important as any other step during the process of conveyancing.

Whilst it’s not a necessity to make an offer, it is beneficial to engage a conveyancer before making an offer to buy a property. There are many hidden costs that a conveyancer will factor in whilst also being able to thoroughly go through the contract of sale.

Put simply, if you are somebody who feels confident enough in their own skills and knowledge of the conveyancing process, DIY conveyancing will save you money but will take time. It’s always important to consider each and every benefit listed above when deciding how you’d like to tackle your own conveyancing process.

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Transfer property without paying stamp duty

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