Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of commonly asked questions regarding the role a conveyancer plays in the purchase or sale of a property.
You also have the option of enrolling in one of our short online courses that explain the role a conveyancer plays if you are buying or selling a property. Choose the course that is appropriate to your circumstances
When should I talk to a conveyancer?
The earlier the better! You don’t need to wait until you are ready to sign a contract – it makes sense to select your conveyancer as soon as you decide to buy or sell. And never sign anything before you’ve asked for your conveyancer’s advice – it is always better to be safe than sorry!
What should I ask my conveyancer?
It is important that you understand what your conveyancer can, and can’t do for you. It is also important that you explain very clearly your position and your requirements.
AICSA members are encouraged to always use plain English, not complicated legal terms, so you understand exactly what is happening. You also need to tell your conveyancer of anything that may impact on the transaction.
If you have severe financial restrictions, tight time limits, or any other specific concerns or special requirements, be sure you explain this at the very beginning. Nobody wants surprises or misunderstandings to ruin your transaction.
Here are a few questions you may like to ask a conveyancer:
- Are you a Member of the Australian Institute of Conveyancers?
- What’s the maximum I can expect to pay in fees and charges?
- What are your fees and what services are included in those fees?
- What will any additional services cost?
- What government fees and charges will I need to pay?
- How long will settlement take?
- How will you keep me up to date with what’s happening?
What are the costs of buying a property?
There are many costs and expenses involved in any real estate transaction. It is important that you are aware of all these costs so that you can budget for them. It can be disastrous if you do not prepare for all possible expenditure.
Costs and expenses arise in various areas of the transaction. Some may not be obvious or unexpected.
This is an overview of the expenses you can generally expect in buying a property:
- Fees and charges payable for obtaining any loan (mortgage);
- Stamp duty;
- Registration fees (paid to the Lands Titles Office);
- Search costs;
- Rates and Taxes for the period that you will own the property;
- Conveyancing fees and minor costs; and
- The costs involved in moving.
There may be other expenses in specific transactions; always ask your conveyancer for details of anything which may arise in your particular purchase.
There are various websites that can assist you to calculate some of these costs.
First home buyers may be eligible for a Commonwealth Government grant (the First Home Owners Grant) and for a rebate of stamp duty. The RevenueSA website has useful information and calculators for the First Home Owners Grant and stamp duties concessions.
More information is provided on this website under ‘Buying and Selling’?
What are the costs of selling a property?
Fees and disbursements for a conveyancing transaction will vary, depending on the nature of the transaction and if any special matters need to be attended to. A conveyancer can provide a quote for their services.
With respect to a sale where there is an existing mortgage, a seller needs to budget to pay for the following:
- Registration fee on the Discharge of Mortgage. See http://www.landservices.sa.gov.au
- Government search fees – The SA Government Property Interest Report (PIR) and Local Council searches will be required. A conveyancer can advise what these fees will be.
- Conveyancer’s fees – these will vary depending on the complexity of the transaction. A seller can obtain a quote from a conveyancer
There may be other expenses in specific transactions; always ask your conveyancer for details of anything which may arise in your particular sale.
So what do conveyancers charge?
Any real estate transaction is a complicated process with many costs involved. One of these will be the fees paid to your conveyancer.
You should talk to your conveyancer about all the costs in your transaction including the conveyancing fees – none of us like surprises!
As a professional body, the AICSA does not set or regulate the fees charged by our members. Conveyancers have expert skills to complete your transaction effectively and efficiently; their fees reflect their professionalism and the complexity of your transaction. Whatever the fee, remember you are buying peace of mind.
Remember, your conveyancer is working for you and is as important to your financial future as your bank manager or your accountant.
Your conveyancer will:
- Protect your interests
- Be your advocate
- Keep you informed at every step
- Ensure you can exercise your rights and meet your responsibilities.
All transactions are not the same. Sometimes a transaction requires additional work that was not foreseeable at the outset. A conveyancer is entitled to charge additional fees for additional work. If seeking a quote for fees, you should always ask ‘What is included in this fee?’ and ‘What services will attract an extra fee and how will that fee be calculated?’? You should also ask your conveyancer to notify you if it becomes clear additional work is required.
Use our convenient Find a Conveyancer Tool to find a conveyancer for your property transaction.
Can I do the conveyancing work myself?
It is not against the law to do your own conveyancing work.
However, conveyancing work is highly technical and highly specialised.
Do not attempt to do your own conveyancing unless you know precisely what to do and are certain you have the capacity to do it before you enter into the transaction. You cannot expect any assistance from the conveyancer acting for the other party.
If you make an error, you may cause settlement to be delayed (causing default interest to be payable by you) or even enable the other party to terminate the contract.
If you are considering doing the conveyancing work yourself, look at the list of tasks to be undertaken by a conveyancer and tick off those that you are experienced in doing.
Interestingly, very few real estate agents attempt to do their own conveyancing when buying or selling for themselves.
Conveyancing is an expert’s job: to be safe, you should engage an expert. Remember, you are buying peace of mind.
Do I need a solicitor?
No, registered conveyancers are experts who specialise in conveyancing work; you do not need to use a solicitor. Some conveyancers are qualified solicitors but many are non-solicitors who have completed specialist tertiary education in conveyancing.
In fact, many law firms employ registered conveyancers to undertake their conveyancing work. Membership of the AICSA is your assurance of your conveyancer’s expertise and professionalism.
Are conveyancers cheaper than solicitors?
Not necessarily. Conveyancers and solicitors both provide specialist, professional advice and charge for their services accordingly.
In most cases, the fees will reflect the complexity of the transaction; this is true whether you use a registered conveyancer or a solicitor.
The real difference is that conveyancers are specialists who work only in this area whereas solicitors work in many areas of the law. As with most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for.
A registered conveyancer offers expert advice, professional service and peace of mind.
Do most people use solicitors or conveyancers?
Most transactions in South Australia are handled by conveyancers who are not solicitors.
This is not surprising when professional non-solicitor conveyancers have been recognised here for around 150 years. Conveyancers were often referred to as land-brokers in the past.
Is there a difference between individual conveyancers?
Yes, just as there are differences between individual accountants or individual electricians. Some conveyancers are self-employed or work in small businesses, others work in bigger companies and solicitors’ offices; some offer a wider range of services than others and they all have their own fees and their own business practices.
If you use an AICSA member, the similarities are more important than the differences. Our members have all undertaken specialist tertiary training and they engage in regular professional development programs to keep their skills and knowledge up to date; they have access to professional journals and newsletters; they all have professional indemnity insurance to protect you, the consumer; and they all offer professional service and expert advice.
Should the buyer and seller use the same conveyancer?
It is quite legal to use the same conveyancer and can often appear convenient to do so. However, the Institute does not recommend doing so in most transactions.
Remember that your conveyancer is there to work for you and be your advocate, not just stamp some forms and fill in the blanks. A conveyancer acting for both buyer and seller must cease to act if a conflict of interest arises (for example, if the same advice cannot be given to both parties).
Conflicts can arise over all sorts of issues such as a delayed settlement or an unfulfilled special condition. It is generally impossible to predict when this may happen. The savings from using the same conveyancer are small but the risks are potentially huge. Significant delays often occur if the conveyancer must cease to act in a transaction.
Ask yourself if you’re really comfortable using the same person as the other party or if you would feel better working with your own conveyancer.
The agent wants me to use his conveyancer - is that a good idea?
Many real estate agents have local conveyancers to whom they refer work from properties they are selling. This is perfectly appropriate if based on the professionalism and expertise of the conveyancer and can be helpful if you don’t know of a conveyancer yourself.
Remember, though, that your conveyancer is there to protect your interests; if you would rather select your own conveyancer, check our Find a Conveyancer Tool or call the AICSA for further advice. The choice of conveyancer is yours, not the agent’s.
Can my conveyancer help me get a home loan?
No, conveyancers are not allowed to give specific financial advice unless additionally licensed.
That said, many of our members have good contacts in the finance industry and they may be able to recommend people or institutions for you to talk to about your requirements.
I'm selling my house privately - do I still need a conveyancer?
Yes, you still need a conveyancer to prepare the contract of sale, a statutory disclosure statement (often referred to as ‘Form 1’) and the other documentation required by law for the sale to proceed.
Contact your conveyancer before you advertise your house for sale to ensure you fulfil your legal obligations.
How do I transfer the house over to the children?
Transferring a house to friends or family entails changing the registered ownership the same as if you are selling.
Your conveyancer can do this for you and ensure your meet your legal obligations. Unless additionally licensed, conveyancers are not able to give detailed financial or taxation advice on the impact of transferring your house to your children.
Do conveyancers have indemnity insurance?
Yes, all conveyancers who are members of the Australian Institute of Conveyancers (SA Division) are required to be protected by professional indemnity insurance.
This is to protect you, the consumer, in the unlikely event that something does go wrong. You can feel secure dealing with an AICSA member.
What if something does go wrong?
You’ll be pleased to know we receive very few complaints about the services provided by AICSA members. The few complaints we do get often refer to misunderstandings about fees and charges. Ensure you understand clearly the full extent of all fees and charges before you proceed with your transaction.
If something does go wrong and you are not happy with the service you receive from one of our members, please contact us for our assistance.
Our members are all professionals; they want to do a good job and have a satisfied client.
If you do have a problem, we always recommend you try to discuss it with your conveyancer first; in many cases it may be a simple misunderstanding that can be resolved quickly and easily.