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Agents, Solicitors & Conveyancers. Who does what when you’re buying a house?

There are a couple of key people you’ll meet when buying a house (and we’re not talking about your new neighbours). You’ll probably hear the words ‘agent’, ‘conveyancer’, and ‘solicitor’ flying around – but who are they, and why do you need them?

The Agent

Think of a buyer’s agent as your property wing person – they’re by your side as you search for your perfect fit. Consider engaging with an agent from the beginning of your buying journey.

Their role is to help you navigate the whole search to purchase process:

  • Provide their knowledge about the local property market
  • Guide you through the types of buying options (e.g. auction, private treaty)
  • Provide a personalised list of homes that might interest you
  • Arrange and accompany you to property inspections and viewings
  • If an inspection reveals a problem, they’ll liaise with the seller on your behalf
  • Be your sounding board at auctions (to ensure you don’t get caught up in the excitement and make a bad decision)
  • Negotiate a price on your behalf once you land on a property you’re keen on

The Conveyancer

A conveyancer is a licensed professional who’s there to help you with the formal stuff. They’ll give you advice around the sale of a property and navigate the legal documentation and settlement process.

Some states in Australia allow you to have your paperwork done by a licensed conveyancer, as opposed to a solicitor. You’ll want to engage with one well before you sign a contract or start negotiating the purchase of the property.

Your conveyancer will do all the heavy lifting for settlement:

  • Prepare, review and lodge all required legal documents, e.g. contract of sale, memorandum of transfer
  • Deal with any issues related to a property inspection
  • Review the contract of sale for any hidden watch-outs
  • Review the vendor’s statement and inform you of any concerns
  • Conduct a title and certificates search on the property to ensure everything is correct and in order
  • Arrange settlement with all parties

Pro tip: A good buyer’s agent will have in-depth local market knowledge and be able to tell you things about the neighbourhood such as average prices for the area, public transport access, demographics and planning regulations.

The Solicitor

A solicitor plays a similar role to the conveyancer, in that they’ll help you navigate your rights and the legal formalities of the sale. Expect a solicitor to cover much of the same ground – prepare and lodge all legal documents for the purchase, review the contract of sale, etc.

Most states and territories in Australia let you choose either a conveyancer or a solicitor to do this work. However, in QLD and ACT you must use a solicitor. As with a conveyancer, you’ll want to have a solicitor ready to go upfront.

If you have a choice, you have a few considerations:

  • Conveyancers will generally be cheaper than solicitors, and are equipped to guide you through straightforward purchases
  • While a conveyancer’s expertise is in conveyancing, a solicitor has broader knowledge of the law, and could advise on issues that fall outside of a regular conveyancing transaction, such as tax implications
  • A solicitor is better equipped to handle more complex sales that contain more risk

You’ll need to factor the cost of engaging with these people into your overall budget – but they could play a crucial part in helping you nab your dream home or investment property.