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Conveyancing is the process when the title (i.e. ownership) of property changes (i.e. it is transferred from one person to another).  The conveyancing process involves a broad range of steps such as property inspections and title searches, exchange of contracts, searches and enquiries, requisitions on title and settlement.

This article looks at the pros and cons of hiring a conveyancer or a solicitor when buying or selling your property.  The article also provides an overview of what is involved in the conveyancing process to help you make an informed choice.

Conveyancing steps

Conveyancing normally consists of three steps:

  • pre-contract;
  • pre-completion;
  • post-completion.

Outline of steps in acting for a purchaser (or buyer)

If acting for a purchaser, the conveyancing solicitor/conveyancer will:

  • review and negotiate amendments to the contract for sale;
  • organise searches and enquiries;
  • draft the memorandum of transfer and the contract of sale
  • calculate duties, taxes, levies and rates
  • act on your behalf at settlement
  • represent your interests in dealings with the vendor (or their solicitor and conveyancer) and/or real estate agent

Outline of steps in acting for a vendor (or seller)

If acting for a vendor, the conveyancing solicitor/conveyancer will:

  • draft the contract
  • represent you in dealings with the purchaser (or their solicitor and conveyancer) and/or real estate agent;
  • act on your behalf at settlement.

Should I use a conveyancer or solicitor?

Deciding whether or not to engage a conveyancer or a solicitor can be a difficult decision.

Set out below are some questions to ask to help make the decision that is right for you:

  • Cost:  Most solicitors and conveyancers offer fixed fee conveyancing, but you need to make sure you know what you are getting. What happens for instance, if the sale does not proceed. Does the price include all contingencies and fees/charges?
  • Insurance:  You need to find out what insurance the professional has to offer you if something goes wrong. Solicitors are required to have insurance if they make a mistake, which is an obvious advantage if they make a critical mistake.
  • Legislation:  Property laws are subject to change. For this reason you should consider engaging a solicitor who will have a better understanding of property laws.
  • Supervision:  Ask who will be doing the work.  Will it be a clerk or a paralegal? Will the solicitor actually be doing the conveyancing themselves? If it is a clerk you need to ensure they are properly supervised.
  • Qualifications and experience:  Ask the professional what their qualifications are and whether they have worked on a transaction involving a similar type of property before (e.g. farm land).
  • Specialist advice:  There is frequently variation across property transactions. Ask the professional if they can help you with the particular needs you have in the transaction and after completion. Do you need advice on capital gains tax? Do you need to change your will?  Will the sale have family law implications? How will all of this be integrated into the price?

Conclusion

Buying or selling a property is a big decision and may involve complex issues. There are risks in undertaking your own conveyancing and you are unlikely to be equipped to deal with them.  Generally, you are better off using a solicitor to undertake your conveyancing work so that your interests are protected.

LegalVision cannot provide legal assistance with this topic. We recommend you contact your local law society.

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