Settlement Agent Essentials

When you’re finally able to make your dream home a reality it may come as a rude shock to discover it’s not quite the fairytale it’s cracked up to be. With your dream pad comes legal costs and responsibilities that you’d rather push to the back of your mind.

“Conveyancing” is a pretty scary word for many first-time home buyers who are in the midst of grappling with a host of other real estate jargon.

Unfortunately, it’s a necessary step in the purchasing process – and something that can’t be avoided. Regardless of whether you’re buying a poky inner-city apartment or a sprawling McMansion on the water you’ll need to get some conveyancing done.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the process of transferring the legal ownership of property from one person to another. It is made up of three essential steps – investigation, negotiation and paperwork.

This includes everything from checking the contract of sale and applying to the local council for a current survey and building certificate, to enquiring with relevant government departments and attending settlement.

While you are allowed to do this yourself, unless you have a legal background you have to wonder why anyone would take this route. You already have to deal with the to-ing and fro-ing of obtaining finance and then there’s the stress of the move itself!

It makes sense to leave the pile of confusing paperwork to the professionals. Not only will this ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, it will take some of the pain out of the whole experience.

Conveyancing costs

Conveyancers on charge as little as $500 and go up to around $1000. This flat fee normally includes all the basics, and your conveyancer should provide you with a breakdown of all costs.

If you don’t think the purchase or sale is going to be straightforward you should consider hiring a solicitor. A conveyancer can only give you legal advice about the property, whereas a solicitor can advise you about the property and many other legal matters, such as tax matters and inheritance.

Whether you opt for a conveyancer or solicitor make sure they have a licence and professional indemnity insurance. Indemnity insurance is obtained in order to offer protection to a buyer (and a lender) where there is a defect in the title which cannot be resolved. While this should be used as a last resort, it’s absolutely crucial.

All care, no responsibility

While your conveyancer or solicitor will review the contract it will be up to you to double-check the details. There’s a good chance your conveyancer has never set foot in your property so they’ll be relying on you to pick up any oversights. The house contract should detail absolutely everything, from the number of parking spots on the title to any permanent window fixtures.

If you do decide to go it alone, do yourself a favour and purchase a DIY Conveyancing Kit. The kit can normally be found for around $80 and contains a step-by-step guide to all the necessary procedures, as well as all the documents required.

Regardless of which conveyancing method you choose it’s a good idea to have another set of eyes (preferably trained ones!) check over the contract.

Signing a contract that you don’t really understand is a big no-no – in fact it’s the fastest way to lose your dream home. Once you’ve signed on the dotted line the contract is binding and if something is awry even the most high-priced lawyer will have trouble rectifying the situation.

There’s no better reason to forgo the responsibility from the start and let your conveyancer work their magic!

About Riverside

Principle Settlement Agent, Jan Bullen is the Licensee and holds a Settlement Agents License as required by the Settlement Agents Act 1981. With a background including banking and finance Jan also holds a Diploma in Financial Services (Conveyancing).