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Article | 2 minute read

Property conveyancing and settlement

How does the process work when you sell your home? Here’s a quick rundown on property conveyancing and settlement.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the transfer of property from one owner to another.

Who can do it?

Usually, people engage a professional to do the legal work involved in buying or selling property. Regulations vary from state to state, but generally it will be either a conveyancer or a solicitor, who are licensed to prepare documentation, provide advice on contracts and arrange settlement.

How does the sale actually take place?

In a private sale, after a buyer and seller have agreed a price and negotiated any changes to the contract (with help from their conveyancers or solicitors), the buyer might sometimes pay a small deposit of, say, 1%, as a sign of good faith. This is generally not binding, and the buyer could still be ‘gazumped’ - ditched for another buyer at the last minute. However, this may vary state by state, so it’s best to always check which rules apply in your state.

Once buyer and seller have signed the sale contract (or ‘exchanged contracts’ - the specifics vary from state to state), the buyer will pay a larger deposit, usually 10%. A cooling-off period of up to five business days may apply after the contract has been signed, depending on the state or territory.

For auctions, the sale contract is signed at the auction and a 10% deposit is paid immediately - no cooling-off period applies.

Settlement period

We then enter the settlement period - the time between the signing of the contract and settlement (or completion), when the transfer of the property is finalised. During this time the buyer’s conveyancer or solicitor will conduct legal searches and may make certain enquiries about the property, to be answered by the seller’s conveyancer or solicitor.

Settlement periods vary from state to state. The standard period is usually between one and three months, but longer or shorter settlements can be negotiated between buyer and seller.

Pre-settlement inspection

Shortly before settlement the buyer will usually inspect the property to make sure everything is still as it should be.

Settlement day

On settlement day, conveyancers (or solicitors) and lenders get together to finalise finances and the transfer of the property.

The balance of the purchase price is paid, plus or minus ‘adjustments’ for items such as council rates (to make sure buyer and seller have paid the appropriate amount each). If stamp duty hasn’t been paid before settlement, it is now, along with other taxes and charges. Old mortgages are paid off and new mortgages are registered.

The title is transferred from seller to buyer and registered with the Land Titles Office. The agent is instructed to release the keys to the new owner and the process is complete.

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Information on this page is general only and is not a substitute for professional advice in relation to the costs of selling your home.

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