When you’re buying or selling a home, knowing the conveyancing process can help you understand the legal intricacies of how a property is transferred from one owner to another.
Though the exact details differ depending on your situation, typically there are three stages of a conveyancing transaction: before the contract, contract to settlement, and after the settlement.
Before the Contract
The conveyancing process doesn’t start when you have a contract in place; it begins when you express interest to purchase a property. Before you give the vendor an offer to purchase their property, you should be in talks with your conveyancer to talk to them about your plans and goals for the purchase.
As a purchaser, you will generally pay a deposit when you place an offer on a property. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s a binding contract in place or that the property can’t be removed from the market. It just means that you’re serious about your offer.
As a seller, accepting an offer verbally doesn’t mean you’re legally bound to any agreement, either. The transaction only becomes official once both parties have signed the contract with mutually agreeable terms. Ideally, you want your conveyancer involved in the process of creating and/or reviewing the contract of sale, as it spells out the conditions of the transaction.
Contract to Settlement
After you’ve exchanged contracts, there is generally a cooling-off period, which gives you time to rescind the contract if you wish to do so (save for auction contracts, where the cooling-off period does not apply).
This is also the time to prepare for a smooth settlement, so you need to do several things, such as arrange payments for stamp duty; prepare and examine any mortgage agreements; check any planned developments that could affect your property; and do the final inspection.
Meanwhile, your conveyancer will calculate settlement adjustments for council and water rates and, if applicable, land tax, rent and body corporate contributions. Your conveyancer may also send the vendor a list of formal questions about the property, known as requisitions on title. This document reveals information that may not have been previously disclosed during the initial property inspection.
When the settlement date arrives, your conveyancer or their appointed agent will attend settlement on your behalf to meet the vendor’s representative and both parties’ respective bank representatives, to exchange transfer documents, relevant stamp duty forms and any other legal documents. At this time they will pay the sum owing to the vendor including the balance of the purchase price, adjustments and legal fees.
Overall, your conveyancer ensures the completion of all necessary conveyancing steps so that the settlement will run without a fuss. But that’s now not where their role ends…
After the Settlement
Before breathing a sigh of relief, there are still some things that need to be done after settlement.
This is the time to register the transfer documents with the Land Titles Office to formally change property ownership. During this stage, there will also usually be a discharge of any existing mortgages, withdrawal of any existing caveats, transfer of title, and transfer of the mortgage to the new mortgagee. If you are purchasing the property through a loan, your bank will do all this for you. Otherwise, your conveyancer can assist you with the stamping and lodging of these documents for registration after settlement.
You might also need to inform relevant authorities – like the relevant owner’s corporation or property manager – that you’re the new property owner, thereby completing the conveyancing process when you buy a home. Again, your conveyancer will handle this for you.