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Conveyancing is the legal process for changing ownership of a property.

What is conveyancing?

Here's a handy summary of the steps involved in conveyancing.

The legal process for transferring ownership of a property is known as conveyancing. Whether all steps will apply to you depends on your role in the transaction (are you buying / selling / transferring or inheriting?). Each State and Territory has different conveyancing laws and processes. Here is a general summary of conveyancing in Victoria.

Usually the purchase of a property involves the following sequential steps: pre-purchase legal review; signing the contract; monitoring for the satisfaction of special conditions (like subject to finance approval); verification of identity; populating a PEXA workspace; completing the State Revenue Office Duties Online form (to confirm applicable stamp duty, or to apply for an exemption/discount); ordering updates to property certificates to prepare the pro rata apportioned outgoings known as the Statement of Adjustments; drafting the Adjustments; confirming settlement arrangements with the incoming mortgagee; reminding the purchaser about their final inspection; briefing the purchaser with the final figures, banking information and other details for settlement day; finalising the PEXA workspace; settling; and advising the water authority, Council and (if applicable) Owners Corporation of the change of ownership.

For the sale of a property, a similar process occurs, with many of the above steps undertaken as a mirror image. And the first major step in the conveyancing process for a vendor is the preparation of a contract + vendor statement/section 32, which involves disclosing all sorts of information about the property upfront, so a buyer can make an informed decision before they sign the contract. In other States (like Queensland) there is no vendor statment/section 32; rather, the purchaser undertakes searches on the property prior to settlement. In Victoria, an Owners Corporation certificate is included in the vendor statement/section 32; in New South Wales, the purchaser orders a strata report.

For the transfer of ownership of property between spouses or former spouses, similar steps apply as for a purchase, but instead of a contract there may be Court orders or a Binding Financial Agreement; and Adjustments are not usually prepared.

There have been many changes to conveyancing laws and procedures in Victoria over the last decade, in the shift to paperless, online conveyancing. There are no more paper Transfers of Land, or paper titles or bank cheques – everything is digital and settlement occurs via the online PEXA platform (no more gathering in a room in the city to hand over bank cheques in exchange for paperwork!). And all people dealing with the Land Titles Office (purchasers, sellers, even transfers between spouses) must have their identity independently verified by an authorised witness (like a lawyer, police officer or Justice of the Peace). This is for anti-identify theft reasons.

Drafting and negotiating licence and lease agreements (and assignments/transfers of them), separate agreements for the sale of household items, reviewing and advising about loan documents, assisting guarrantors, mediation and litigation regarding disputes, and issuing default notices (if settlement doesn't occur on time) are all not part of the standard conveyancing process, so they usually incur additional legal fees. Not all conveyancers and conveyancing lawyers can assist with these tasks, even as separate legal engagements. And conveyancers are strictly limited in the assistance they can offer - they are unable to provide legal advice.

Note: the above is general information and should not be considered as legal advice.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

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