What is conveyancing?

Whether you are buying a home or selling a home, there are many critical steps to be managed, most of which have legal implications and require specialist knowledge of the minefield that can come with property transactions. From Section 32 (Vendor Statements) to sales agreements, finalising adjustments on council rates or strata fees, and managing special conditions of the contract, it can be confusing and also costly if you make a mistake. Thankfully conveyancers can manage it all for you, and that’s why it’s so important to have one who knows what they’re doing.

What does a conveyancer do?

Put simply, a conveyancer looks after all the administrative, regulatory and technical aspects of buying or selling a home. Unlike a real estate agent, whose primary role is the marketing and promotion of a property, the conveyancer’s role is to ensure all the legal requirements are met. Amongst other things, this involves checking titles and deeds, including any stipulations attached to a property title such as easements, rights of way and, especially in regional Victoria, covenants like Trust for Nature protections. Conveyancers also regularly assist with vendor statements, contracts for sale, calculating and applying statutory fee adjustments, and managing settlement and the transfer of title deeds.

The vendor’s conveyancer

Usually, both parties to a property sale use conveyancers to handle each side’s responsibilities and needs. The vendor’s conveyancer will be involved early on in the process, and can draft up the contract for sale, setting out exactly what is being sold (for example, are light fittings or kitchen appliances included in the sale or not?). They will also carry out the necessary searches to ensure that the title deeds are in order, the property’s specific reference numbers are correct, and that any issues, planning overlays or other encumbrances are identified. This kind of information must be included in the necessary Section 32 (Vendor’s Statement) which is made available to all potential purchasers and lists all relevant legal and administrative details that a purchaser will want to know.

The conveyancer will also liaise with the real estate agent and the buyer’s conveyancer to help ensure the smooth transfer of money from the purchaser and transfer of title documents from the vendor.

The buyer’s conveyancer

A purchaser’s conveyancer will look at the sale and property documentation from the buyer’s perspective – checking that the title deeds are all correct and in the right names, that the contract of sale is in order, all inclusions and exclusions from the sale are identified clearly, and that any potential issues are identified and disclosed, such as heritage, planning or bushfire management overlays.

Conveyancers may also recommend building inspections if a home is older, or in a bushfire or flood zone.

One of the most important jobs of the buyer’s conveyancer is carrying out searches and checks. In Victoria, a parcel of land could be subject to an array of planning overlays or requirements based on its zoning, which can impact on a potential owner’s plans for their new home. A conveyancer will identify what these might be and alert the buyer to any restrictions or potential issues (for example higher insurance premiums that may arise from being in a flood-prone area). The conveyancer will also make enquiries as to whether there are any debts or obligations attached to the property that the new buyer maybe have to take on. Conveyancers can also search for planning applications or proposed projects that may impact on the property, such as a noisy new highway, or a new building that will limit views, privacy or even sunlight.

After a contract of sale has been signed and a settlement date has been agreed, the conveyancer will then get to work to calculate any adjustments regarding council rates, sewer charges and other fees (i.e. pro-rata refunds to the vendor for money already paid).

If all is in order, then the buyer’s conveyancer will communicate with the vendor’s representatives to arrange smooth settlement, and swift lodgement of all documentation with the various local and state government departments, as well as your lenders.

Can I do my own conveyancing?

Currently, in Victoria, it is possible to do your own conveyancing, but you have to be a member of PEXA (Property Exchange Australia – the online conveyancing platform) to complete the settlement.

The smallest mistake or tiniest oversight can be incredibly costly, regardless of whether you’re the buyer or the seller, almost everyone in the industry recommends getting a trained specialist to handle this aspect of property transfer.

Even many conveyancers avoid doing their own conveyancing, because the emotion and personal sentiment attached to buying or selling a home can often cloud judgement or adversely influence a decision.

An expert in the field, will not only know exactly what to look for and where to go for answers, but will be able to do it in a fraction of the time. And given the many potential pitfalls and mistakes that could be made by a novice, engaging an experienced professional, such as our WhiteStar conveyancer, maybe one of the most valuable investments you can make in buying or selling your home.