A conveyancer is a qualified third-party professional who specialises in the preparation of documentation to transfer ownership of a property. Conveyancers have the necessary qualifications and licenses to ensure that all legal requirements for the transfer of the title to the property are complied with.
The conveyancer is responsible for conducting any necessary research to ensure all debts are removed and the seller or buyer is made aware of all important information regarding the property. They liaise with several parties including the bank, broker, real estate agent, and builder (if applicable), along with building and pest inspectors to ensure all conditions of the contract and transaction are satisfactory. So, is a conveyancer a settlement agent? No, a settlement agent is a company that deals with conveyancers only and their job is to physically attend the settlement in person with the required paperwork. Most settlements are online now, so this job is becoming redundant, with only a few left in business. In other states, the two terms can be interchangeable – such as Western Australia, but in Victoria, they are different.
The role of a conveyancer is to support the buyer or seller, providing useful information and guidance to help avoid common pitfalls and simplify the sale or purchase of a property. The settlement process can be complicated, so it is important to use an experienced professional that can provide insight, direction and support throughout the process until the completion of the settlement.
In Australia, consumers have the right to choose their own conveyancer and do not have to use the one recommended by a real estate agent. All conveyancers are licensed and those that are members of the industry association (Australian Institute of Conveyancers) receive annual professional development to maintain a high standard of education and knowledge on changes and advancements within the property industry.
What does a conveyancer do in Victoria?
So, what does a conveyance do? The role of a conveyance is to ensure that all conditions in the contract are met, rates and taxes are adjusted between the seller and buyer, and any encumbrances on the title are dealt with prior to settlement.
Conveyancing: Purchasing a Property?
When purchasing a property, conveyancer duties include searching land titles, government departments and local authorities to verify the legal owner and advise of any restrictions that may affect the property or its transfer. Other aspects are listed below for your convenience.
- Ensure the property on the Offer and Acceptance is the correct property the buyer intends to purchase
- Ensure all inspections and any special conditions in the contract have been completed prior to settlement
- Prepare and verify all necessary legal documents and forms
- Ensure a final inspection has been conducted and all parties are ready for settlement
- Submit enquiries to local shire, water authority, land tax authority and strata company to adjust rates and ensure outstanding costs are paid to the date of settlement
- Liaise with lending and financial institutions to ensure all loan documentation is completed and the funds required to proceed to settlement on the set date are confirmed
- Coordinating the settlement date and time with financial institutions and the seller’s conveyancer
- Attending settlement on behalf of the purchaser to ensure correct exchange of legal documents and funds
- Preparing legal paperwork to transfer the title of the property after settlement
During the process, the conveyancer will communicate regularly with the purchaser to coordinate key dates, provide updates on settlement progress and advise of any potential delays, including the purchaser’s rights in relation to compensation. At the completion of the settlement, the conveyancer will notify the relevant authorities regarding the change of ownership and provide a settlement statement to the purchaser.
Conveyancing: Selling a Property
From a document point of view, selling a property is a far less involved process. When selling a property, the role of a conveyancer is to:
- Search land titles to verify the legal owner
- Ensure the property is compliant with regulatory requirements such as ATO clearance certificates, outstanding rates and smoke alarm and electrical building codes
- Ensure any special conditions in the contract have been completed before settlement occurs
- Prepare and verify all necessary legal documents and forms
- Manage all adjustments of rates, taxes and levies as required
- Liaise with financial institutions to confirm existing loan balances and provide payout instructions
- Coordinate the settlement date and time with financial institutions and the buyer’s conveyancer
Similar to when purchasing, the conveyancer will communicate regularly with the seller to coordinate key dates, provide updates on settlement progress and advise of any potential delays. The conveyancer will then attend settlement on behalf of the seller to ensure the correct exchange of legal documents before providing a final settlement statement (most likely online).
Ensuring settlement proceeds smoothly
It is the role of a conveyancer to ensure the transaction proceeds smoothly. There are a number of issues that can arise resulting in failure to settle a property. The most common include delayed and untimely financial approval, a shortfall of funds due to an unexpected expense or adjustment in the settlement figures, documentation not being submitted on time, difficulty selling another property and late pre-settlement inspections.
Similar to when purchasing a property, failure to settle a property can be caused by a shortfall of funds and not providing documentation on time, as well as late requests to change settlement proceeds. This occurs when sellers dictate how they would like the sale proceeds to be split. This should be communicated one week prior to settlement to ensure that there is enough time for the figures to be drafted to reflect this. Another common issue is the delayed release of a mortgage. Each financial institution has a different turnaround time for releasing a mortgage, but often they require a minimum of 21 business days. If this paperwork is not completed on time by the seller, the bank will not be ready to release the mortgage on the property.
Time is of the essence in Melbourne, so each party must strictly comply with the due dates under the contract. Either the buyer or the seller can request an extension to the settlement, but there is no obligation for the other party to agree. If one party is unable to settle on the settlement date and no extension is agreed, the other party will gain the right to terminate the contract.
If the buyer is unable to settle on the settlement date, the seller can choose to terminate the contract, retain the deposit and may hold the buyer for responsible damages and specific performance. If the seller agrees to extend the settlement date, they can also charge penalty interest.
Do you need a Conveyancer?
While individuals can legally attempt to settle their own property, Consumer Affairs Victoria (the entity in charge of conveyancers) cautions against it, unless the individual is a suitably qualified lawyer. Settlement is a complex and time-consuming process and for this reason, most buyers and sellers use the services of a licensed conveyancer to act on their behalf.
Property purchases are significant transactions in a highly regulated industry. Assigning a conveyancer who specialises in this field will ensure the consumer feels confident during settlement. They can be assured that they will be represented by an experienced professional who will attend to the duties required and deliver an exceptional level of service throughout the process.
Contact the experienced team at Right Choice Conveyancing today to learn more about the services we can offer you, whether you are a buyer, seller, developer or investor, we are the right choice.