Last updated 21 June 2016

Solicitor or do it yourself

A number of people are prepared to do their own conveyancing. However, if a person doing their own conveyancing misunderstands a document, a clause in the contract or a search result, this misunderstanding could end in expensive and unnecessary litigation and loss.

If a person decides to do their own conveyancing, but a dispute occurs and they find themselves out of their depth, it is advisable to immediately seek assistance from a solicitor. Important contractual and statutory time limits may apply, and rights may be lost if not exercised strictly within time limits.

Conveyancing kits can be purchased from stationers. The kit should be obtained and read carefully before the contract of sale is signed, and it is important to allocate enough time to complete the necessary searches before settlement.

The discussion is not a substitute for engaging a solicitor; it is merely a consideration of some stages of buying a home and the principles that apply. Conveyancing is the process of transferring land from one person to another. The parties involved in the process of buying and selling are usually the real estate agent, the seller, the buyer and solicitors for the seller and buyer. A lender may also be involved if there are mortgages over the property.

Steps in conveyancing

  1. Preliminaries (usually no solicitor involved at this stage)
  • inspect property
  • negotiate (real estate agent usually acts as an intermediary)
  • make sure defects in the title are disclosed by the seller
  1. Formation of contract
  • real estate agent usually draws up the contract
  • buyer signs contract in duplicate, pays deposit and then delivers contract in duplicate back to seller
  • seller signs, and a copy of the contract is provided to the buyer
  • buyer has a five-business-day cooling-off period (if residential property)
  1. Between contract and completion
  • buyer goes to a solicitor (if a solicitor is used)
  • buyer or their solicitor investigates title, searches various departments and may conduct a survey
  • any objections to title are delivered
  • transfer documents are delivered to seller
  • buyer or their solicitor attends to stamping contract
  • adjustment of outgoings are worked out
  1. Completion
  • if search results are satisfactory, the buyer pays balance of purchase money and the seller hands over duplicate certificate of title (if there is one), all documents necessary for registration and the keys for the property
  1. After completion
  • buyer (or their lender if finance is required) attends to registration of transfer, with the buyer becoming the legal owner upon registration
  • notification of the change of ownership is given to the relevant government departments.

Specific issues and considerations arise at each stage.