You may not be fully aware of the importance or the necessity of a conveyancer until you are ready to buy your first property. A conveyancer is responsible for transferring, or ‘conveying’ a property title from one owner to another.
What’s involved in this process and how do you choose a conveyancer who will do a good job?
In the first interview of our ‘Property Experts’ series, we spoke to Leonie Jarrett, owner of conveyancing firm First Class Legal, to find out more about the role of a conveyancer in a property purchase.
‘A conveyancer can preview a contract before you sign and advise on red flags or things to include’, says Leonie. ‘Once (the property is) purchased, a conveyancer will do everything up to settlement and notifying the rating authorities that you are the new owner. This includes liaison with your lender (if any) and all parties’
What should consumers look for when choosing a reputable conveyancer?
Leonie warns that ‘many law firms only ‘dabble’ in conveyancing’.
‘Many conveyancing businesses are cottage, home-based businesses’ she says. ‘First Class Legal is a law firm which deliberately focuses on conveyancing. We were founded almost seven years ago to provide a corporate level of service to conveyancing. The company handles thousands of property settlements every year, and there is probably not too much we have not already seen – and solved!’
Leonie says, ‘In Victoria, only a licenced conveyancing business or a law firm can do conveyancing work. Conveyancers can only do conveyancing so, if other legal work is necessary or becomes necessary, they must refer the matter to a legal firm.’
‘Consumers should look for a firm which does a lot of or exclusively does conveyancing, as there are a lot of pitfalls for the inexperienced. (Choosing a firm with) a Trust account is also useful’.
Buying a property is an expensive undertaking, and first-time buyers may not realise the cost involved for a property transaction. What should consumers be paying to engage a conveyancer?
‘Costs vary but the expression “pay peanuts, get monkeys” comes to mind’ says Leonie, stressing that looking for a rock-bottom price may backfire in the long run. She estimates that the process should usually cost less than $2,000. This includes GST and disbursements i.e. out of pocket expenses for property searches.
We asked Leonie to give us an idea of the mistakes she sees buyers making when purchasing a property, and to offer tips on how these can be avoided.
‘The usual legal principle applying to buyers is “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware”. Mistakes generally relate to not taking that legal principle seriously and not doing your due diligence on the property you are buying. A pre purchase house inspection by a reputable company is a “must” in my opinion’.
She continues, ‘Having a legal professional read the S32 and Contract before signing is another “must”. Generally, once the Contract is signed, a buyer is bound to it’.
And, she says, if the transfer of title doesn’t go to plan, you ‘absolutely need a solicitor, as a conveyancing firm may not be able to deal with this’.
Leonie stressed that while different circumstances give rise to different protections, ‘in general, (the principle of) “buyer beware” applies”, and that there are few protections for buyers. ‘A seller can rescind (i.e. cancel) the Contract if the buyer does not pay and the buyer usually forfeits their deposit, and can be sued’.
Property settlements in Victoria have now largely moved online. What impact has Leonie and her team seen this have on the process?
‘We believe electronic settlements are far superior – more transparent and more efficient. Buyers are registered on Title straight away and sellers have funds in their account immediately’.
‘In the old “paper” world, registration on Title could take weeks and sale proceeds took several days to arrive in sellers’ bank accounts. First Class Legal recently lodged our 7,000th electronic transfer – the first Victorian firm to reach 7,000 – so we are very confident in an electronic world.’
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