At TNS Lawyers, we are aware that if you haven’t been through the conveyancing process before, it can seem both complex and confusing.
Here is our easy-to-follow guide to the conveyancing process in Victoria, which we’ve specially designed for buyers.
Step 1: You find the property you want to buy.
The first stage in the process is that you locate the property that you want to buy.
Before you ‘fall in love’ with a property, we suggest you make a list of your essential and non-essential requirements.
You should also check the area and neighbourhood closely. This should involve visiting the suburb and street at different times of the day and night. If you have children, you may want to check the quality of the local schools.
Ask yourself whether the property meets your requirements.
Never allow a real estate agent or seller to push you into signing a contract to buy a property.
Step 2: Check if you can afford the property.
When you buy a property, you need to check the total cost of the transaction, not just the purchase price.
The fees and charges you need to pay can add thousands of dollars to the purchase price, including:
- Inspection fees
- Valuation fees
- Transfer of registration fees
- Stamp duty
- Bank charges
- Other professional fees
- Moving costs
- Mortgage insurance
Step 3: The seller or agent presents you with the Contract of Sale and the Vendor’s Statement.
If you are interested in buying a property, the seller or real estate agent will present you with a Contract of Sale and the Vendor’s Statement. You need to check these documents carefully.
The contract should contain:
- Details of the property
- Your name and the seller’s name
- Your agent’s details (if you are using an agent)
- Details of both your and the seller’s legal practitioner/conveyancer
- The price you have agreed on with the seller
- The required deposit amount
- The balance of the purchase price owing at settlement
- The settlement period that both you and the seller have agreed on
- Items at the property that are part of the purchase
In Victoria, before a person sells you a property, they must give you a Vendor’s Statement (or a Section 32 Statement). The statement must include information on the property’s title, including:
- Outgoings (for example, rates)
- Declaration if located in a bushfire prone area
A Vendor’s Statement is a legal document so it must be factually accurate. If the seller has included inadequate or inaccurate information, you may be able to withdraw from the sale or take legal action against the seller.
Step 4: You arrange for your property lawyer to review the Contract of Sale.
It is very important to ask a property lawyer to review the Contract of Sale and the Vendor’s Statement.
At this point, the lawyer should ask you a lot of questions about the property. There is a basic principle of ‘buyer beware’ in Victoria so you need to ensure that the Contract of Sale and Vendor’s Statement are an accurate reflection of what you believe you are getting when you buy the property.
At this point, you should consider whether you want any special conditions inserted into the contract such as:
- Making the purchase of the property subject to receiving finance from your bank
- Delaying the settlement for some reason
- Specifying any chattels or fixtures that you insist on being included in the sale because you should not rely on verbal promises from either the seller or real estate agent
Step 5: You make an offer to the seller and pay a deposit.
You make an offer to the seller indicating how much you are willing to pay for the property. This phase may involve a period of negotiation over the price.
If your offer is accepted by the seller, you pay the deposit.
The deposit is usually 10% of the purchase price. However, you can either pay the full deposit or part of the deposit with the remainder payable at a time specified in the Contract of Sale.
You should be aware that even if you have a property under offer, this does not prohibit other potential buyers from making an offer or viewing the property.
A property remains on the market until both you and the seller agree on the price and sign the contract.
Do I need a conveyancer or lawyer before I make an offer?
When buying a property, it is important to review the contract of sale and Section 32 statement before making an offer. By engaging a conveyancer or lawyer to do a thorough review of the contract and other documents, you can:
- uncover defects or issues with the property you’re intending to purchase
- avoid unfair clauses and special conditions such as defaults and penalties if you fail to settle
- understand the effects of easement and restrictions
Aside from overseeing the contract and other pre-purchase reviews, our team at TNS Lawyers can help you put in an offer, negotiate the price, and organise the transfer of the Title upon settlement. Learn more about TNS Lawyers’ conveyancing services for property buyers.
Step 6: You organise a building inspection and/or pest inspection.
Building inspection report
After you have paid the deposit and before signing the Contract of Sale, you should consider organising for a qualified building inspector to conduct a building inspection.
You may be able to use the inspection report to negotiate on the price of the property.
Use a building inspection service with full professional indemnity insurance. This will protect you if the inspection misses a problem that must be fixed.
Do not accept a building inspection report from the seller or real estate agent. Getting your own building inspection report ensures that it is both independent and accurate.
Pest inspection report
You should also consider getting a pest inspection report.
Termites destroy timber internally, leaving only a very thin layer to protect them from the outside environment. They are often located in concealed locations that are hard to access. Unfortunately, there is no predictable pattern to termite damage.
Step 7: You exchange contracts and pay the deposit: the property is sold.
Once you have conducted your building and pest report and you and the seller have agreed on the price, you can sign the Contract of Sale.
Once the buyer and seller have signed the contract, the property is sold.
In Victoria, buyers generally have a 3-day cooling-off period after signing the contract. It is important to note that 3 days is calculated from the purchaser signing the contract (not the vendor). This means that you have 3 days to change your mind and withdraw from the Contract of Sale.
It is important to note that cooling-off periods do NOT apply to properties:
- sold at auction
- over 20 hectares and primarily used for farming
- mainly used for industrial or commercial purposes
- where the buyer previously signed a contract for the property on the same terms
- where the buyer is an estate agent or a corporate entity
If you decide to withdraw from a sale during the cooling-off period, you will be entitled to a full refund of the deposit, minus $100 or 0.2 per cent of the purchase price (whichever amount is greater).
Can the vendor cancel the contract of sale in Victoria?
Walking away from a contract of sale could lead to the vendor or purchaser suing for damages or forcing completion of the sale.
Here are some instances where a vendor might be able to back out of the contract:
- the contract of sale has not been signed yet
- the buyer fails to meet deadlines set in the contract (e.g. paying the deposit, securing finance, being in default, breaching an essential term of the contract, etc.)
Step 8: Get insurance for the property.
Once the contract has been signed, you should get insurance for the property.
While you may be able to rely on the seller’s insurance up until settlement, a mortgagee or lender may expect to be presented with an insurance policy on the day of settlement.
Step 9: Your lawyer/conveyancer undertakes checks on the property.
During this period, your lawyer will search the relevant certificate of title at the Land Registry. This will show all registered caveats, easements, covenants, mortgages, and mortgage discharges that affect the property.
Your lawyer can also conduct other searches that determine whether the property is affected in other ways. For example, they can check whether the property is affected by land contamination.
You might also want to prepare a conveyancing checklist which you can fill up with the assistance of your lawyer. Download free templates like the Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee’s (LPLC) land purchaser checklist and Law Institute Victoria’s pre-contract and post-contract checklists.
Step 10: The sale is finalised.
The sale of the property is finalised when you pay the balance of the purchase price in exchange for the seller providing the transfer documents and the certificate of title.
At this point, the property is transferred to you.
The property must be handed over in the same condition that it was in on the day it was sold. As the buyer, you should carry out an inspection in the week prior to settlement to confirm this.
When change of ownership takes place, your lawyer will notify all authorities on your behalf.