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Buying tips

Conveyancing

Conveyancing is the term used to describe the transfer of ownership of property from seller to buyer. Solicitors and real estate agents can assist you with your conveyance. You have the choice of doing the conveyance yourself, but you do so at your own risk.

Solicitors and real estate agents

It is important to understand the different roles solicitors and real estate agents play in conveyancing. Solicitors are conveyancing experts who have been trained in this area of law and have the competence to guide you through a transaction to ensure your interests are protected. As each property is different, so is each conveyance.

Your solicitor can advise you on the need for special conditions and other legal matters which touch on conveyancing law. A real estate agent is not qualified to give legal advice on the contract or to draft clauses or modify the pre-printed contract in any way.

Pool fencing safety certificate

Since December 2010, if you are thinking of purchasing a house, townhouse or unit, your real estate agent will provide you with a disclosure notice before you enter into a contract for sale if there is a pool and there is no pool safety certificate. We also have an obligation as real estate agents to provide you with a pool safety certificate or notice of no pool safety certificate to you before settlement.

The contract

A standard contract for the conveyancing of residential property was developed by the Real Estate Institute of Queensland and Queensland Law Society. When you have expressed your interest in purchasing a property, the real estate agent will prepare a standard contract for you to sign. Seek advice before you sign – send a draft contract to your solicitor to make sure it is correct and meets your needs. A standard contract cannot deal with the individual circumstances of every transaction. If necessary your solicitor can add special clauses to the contract, for example:

  • The purchase may depend on the sale of your existing property
  • The property is not subject to flooding and the sellers
  • Have obtained all necessary statutory approvals and complied with those approvals.

It is also recommended that you obtain an independent valuation of the property before you sign the contract. There are a number of critical Warning and Disclosure Statements which must be completed and signed to ensure that the contract is properly formed. You should ask your solicitor to ensure that these are correct before you sign.

Cooling-off period

All residential property sales in Queensland are subject to a buyer’s cooling-off period of five business days commencing on the date the buyer or their lawyer receives a copy of the contract signed by both the buyer and the seller. If you, the buyer, decide not to proceed with the sale within that period, you must give notice to the seller in the specified way to cancel the contract; you must pay the seller 0.25% of the purchase price of the property. If your deposit exceeds that 0.25%, the balance must be refunded to you.

No cooling-off period applies to buyers who purchase at auction on the fall of the hammer. The cooling-off period still applies if a property is passed in at auction and a bidder subsequently buys the property.

Buying a house

Your solicitor will:

  • Check the title and plan of the land for easements, caveats, and other encumbrances
  • Do all the other usual searches
  • Inform you if these searches disclose any zoning and planning regulations or other restrictions affecting the property
  • Check for any disputes or other charges affecting the unit or townhouse (community title land)
  • Prepare all documents and make sure you gain good title to the property you are buying.

Buying a townhouse or unit

When you buy a townhouse or unit (community title) you take on a relationship with the other owners and the body corporate such as:

  • Sharing the ownership of common areas such as lifts, stairwells and front entrances
  • Becoming a member of a body corporate which is regulated by fairly complex rules – you are jointly and severally liable for the body corporate’s debts.

The body corporate is made up of all the owners. It decides issues about the common property, concerns of owners and maintenance of the complex. Owners regularly contribute money to the body corporate for day-to-day ongoing expenses and anticipated long term costs. You should ask your solicitor to explain the ramifications of buying community title.

The costs involved

Ask your solicitor for an estimate of legal and other costs and to tell you the details of the processes involved in handling your conveyance.

Your solicitor will advise you on standard charges such as stamp duty, council and government search costs and document registration fees. If you are going to live in the residence you should be eligible for a stamp duty discount.