What’s the difference between a conveyancer and solicitor?
It can be confusing when you’re offered what seems to be the same service by two different professionals. So which one is right for your needs?
Basically, each time a property changes hands the process is called conveyancing, and conveyancing can be done by either a solicitor or a conveyancer.
Before you start the conveyancing process it’s important that you understand the differences so you can make an informed decision that suits your risk level and your budget.
Conveyancers vs solicitors
Generally conveyancers (also known as settlement agents) have detailed knowledge in one area of law, being property law.
Solicitors on the other hand have specific knowledge about property law but also broader knowledge of the law in general.
This means that a solicitor can advise their client not only on all aspects of a conveyance, but also on issues that might relate to the conveyance, such as the tax implications of a property transaction, or how the sale of a house might impact their client’s divorce proceedings.
This difference in knowledge and experience is what commonly creates a price difference between conveyancers and solicitors.
Consider your budget
The biggest reason people hire a conveyancer over a solicitor is because hiring a conveyancer is often less expensive.
Conveyancers can usually be hired for around $500 - $600 plus disbursements, whereas a solicitor may charge $1000 – $1100 plus disbursements.
So it’s possible that hiring a conveyancer over a solicitor could create a saving in the vicinity of about $500.00.
Hiring a conveyancer may therefore be perfectly suitable should the property value be low, the budget tight or the transaction straightforward.
Don’t forget though that for conveyancers to offer a low price they often have to take on a lot of files to make a profit, so you may not get the same level of service as you would from a solicitor.
When making the choice, consider how important the $500 saving is to you in the context of the transaction.
How complex is the transaction?
It is important to bare in mind how complex the property transaction is likely to be.
The more complex the transaction, the more important it will be to ensure any technical issues, uncertainties or problems that arise can be dealt with swiftly.
If you’ve hired a conveyancer and something goes wrong, they’ll often need to send you off to see a lawyer, in which case you’ll probably end up paying more than you would have had you hired a lawyer to begin with.
The advantage of hiring a solicitor to do your conveyancing is they have extensive legal knowledge in most areas of law, so they’ll be on hand to quickly solve any legal issues that arise during the course of the transaction.
Examples where a transaction is at risk of becoming complicated include off the plan purchases or when a plan of subdivision is required.
At what point should you engage a professional?
Whether you choose to hire a conveyancer or a solicitor, it is important to hire them at the outset of your transaction.
If you’re selling your property, you need to hire someone when you’ve decided to sell as it can take some time to draft the Contract of Sale and prepare the Vendor’s Statement.
If you’re buying a property, hiring someone before you sign any paperwork is always preferable.
Before bidding or making an offer to buy a house it is advisable that your conveyancer or solicitor reviews the Contract of Sale so they can point out any intricacies about the property and potentially negotiate on your behalf for contract terms that would be favourable to you.
Also, if you have your conveyancer/solictor’s details from the outset, the agent you are purchasing the property through can then forward all relevant paperwork and details to them straight away to get the ball rolling.