REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS: SHOULD I USE A LAWYER OR A CONVEYANCER?

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-By Jake Woolford

Whether you’re looking to expand your investment portfolio or wanting a place to call home, buying or selling real estate is a big deal. There’s a lot to be considered, including how to make sure that the property changes hands smoothly and efficiently. This is the conveyancing aspect of property sale and purchase and it raises the often-asked question: “Should I use a lawyer or conveyancer?”

What is conveyancing?

At its most basic, conveyancing is the process of changing ownership of a property. That is, moving the title from the current owner to the new owner. Because buying and selling property usually involves large sums of money, there are many technical aspects of conveyancing that must be strictly followed to make sure that the transfer, or conveyance, is done properly and without fraud or duress.

What does a conveyancer do?

Conveyancers do everything that is necessary to meet legal requirements for property dealings including buying or selling real estate, subdividing land, changing registered owners on property titles and dealing with easements over particular properties.

This means that conveyancers will prepare legal documents and lodge them with the Land Titles Office. They will also check Certificates of Title, calculate rates and taxes and attend land settlements to ensure that the land is transferred from seller to buyer.

Registered conveyancers

All South Australian conveyancers must be registered. This means that they must hold all the necessary qualifications to do conveyancing work. They should also be a member of the South Australian chapter of the Australian Institute of Conveyancers (AIC), which is the peak body for conveyancers in Australia.

Lawyers and conveyancers

Lawyers are entitled to perform all conveyancing work once they are admitted to practice as lawyers. On the other hand, conveyancers aren’t lawyers unless they have met the extensive requirements to become a practising lawyer.

What’s the difference?

Lawyers can do all of the work that a conveyancer would ordinarily do for any kind of conveyancing issue.

The big difference between the two is the additional services that lawyers offer.

Lawyers will typically practice in other areas of the law in addition to their conveyancing work. This means that if your property transaction raises other issues, you can access the legal assistance you need all in the one place. This means that:

  • You don’t have to shop around for a lawyer, which may cause delay to your conveyance and additional stress.
  • You can easily access legal advice at any point during the conveyancing process.
  • Your lawyer can identify and raise issues that you may not have considered.

There are many situations in which a conveyance may involve other legal areas, for example:

  • If you and your former partner are involved in a property settlement, it may be necessary to transfer the title of the house that you once shared. You may need a lawyer to help with the property settlement and the title transfer.
  • If a house has been left to you in a will, you may need a lawyer who can do the conveyancing work and who can also give you legal advice about inheritance law and probate issues.
  • If there are issues about the construction or repair of the property, you may need legal assistance to have them resolved before settlement.
  • There may be taxation issues relating to the sale or purchase of the property that require legal advice.
  • The contract of sale may need to be specially drafted or require some legal interpretation by a lawyer.

Using a lawyer is also an advantage as they can certify documents and witness statutory declarations, which are usually essential documents in the conveyancing process.

Cost

Whilst it’s true that conveyancers usually offer a cheaper conveyancing service than lawyers, the cost savings will soon disappear if a legal issue arises. If the conveyancer needs to refer the matter to a lawyer, the costs will rapidly increase because the lawyer will need to familiarise themselves with the issue. A conveyancing lawyer will already have a good understanding of the file, so is likely to be able to handle any subsequent legal issues much more cost effectively.

At Websters Lawyers, we have lawyers who are experienced in conveyancing and members of the AIC. Even better, for a straightforward residential conveyance, we offer a fixed price fee of $830 plus GST. (Other fees may also apply – click here for more information).

In addition to standard conveyancing, we also offer other services including:

  • Caveats.
  • Family transfers.
  • Agent’s searches.
  • Private contracts.
  • Preparation of mortgage documents.

Deciding whether to use a conveyancing lawyer or a conveyancer is an important step when dealing with a property transaction. If there are, or are likely to be, other legal issues involved, you need to ensure that you get the best person to provide you with all the advice that you need. This is why it’s an excellent idea to use a lawyer who is also experienced in conveyancing: someone who can provide a seamless service in all the areas that you require to ensure a smooth transaction.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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