Rolf Howard

What legal advice is available to property buyers?

By Rolf Howard

With all the excitement of buying your investment property, it's easy to forget that the purchase is fundamentally a financial transaction governed by an extensive range of legislation. But don't panic – there's plenty of legal advice out there. 

Blogger: Rolf Howard, CEO, Owen Hodge Lawyers

Before buying property, you should, without question, become an educated consumer. With the growth of technology, there are now many more options available online for property buyers.

A property buyer who understands and participates in the conveyancing process may save on costs and is far more likely to be satisfied with the end result. The same is not necessarily true for those who take the next step to do their own conveyancing work, which can be risky. The important thing is to seek the right advice.

Here are the options for online legal advice available to property buyers:

Great free online resources

For buyers in NSW, one of the best informational resources is the NSW Fair Trading website. It objectively sets out the steps involved in buying property, how long you should expect it to take and what to expect about solicitor and other fees. The site also contains links that may help you find an attorney or lodge a complaint.

For those outside NSW, information can be found at the at the Australia.gov.au Housing and Property page. It is essentially a comprehensive index that includes links to other states and territories and has information about grants and other financial information as well.

Law firm blogs

As a form of content marketing, many law firms, including our own, have a rich library of blog posts covering almost every aspect of property purchases. They may address specialised questions and so may be best as a secondary resource after you have had a chance to review official government resources. Reading the posts should be part of your solicitor search, in any event.

DIY conveyancing kits

DIY conveyancing kits are now widely available online. Many consumers may have a difficult time evaluating the quality of the kits because the advertising typically focuses on the potential for saving money without disclosing much about what the kit offers. That, of course, is what is for sale. The criticism frequently heard of DIY kits is that they are quite generic.

As soon as a property purchase takes an unusual twist, which many do, the template may no longer be appropriate. Many consumers are also disappointed that their savings are less than expected because the kits do not eliminate other fees that may be due for inspections, mortgage insurance, stamp duty and the like.

Why use a solicitor?

There a several reasons people opt to use a solicitor:

• First, a solicitor will be far more able to deal with any unusual aspects of a transaction. These may not be limited to property law, but can easily require knowledge of estate and family law.

• Secondly, a property purchase, especially a first-time purchase, may be an ideal occasion to engage in some longer-range financial planning, something with which an attorney may provide invaluable assistance.

• Some firms also have relationships with mortgage lenders, which may expedite the financing.

• The human element is invaluable. A person who can actually be reached in person or on the phone is a lifeline for many buyers.

• Not all transactions proceed smoothly and without complex issues arising. Most do, but from time to time expert professional oversight is required. Disputes can be very difficult and very expensive. At those times you want the best assistance possible readily available.

• Finally, attorneys in NSW must carry insurance to do conveyancing transactions. On the rare occasion when a seller is unhappy and takes action against the buyer, the solicitor’s insurance may protect the buyer from financial liability. In a DIY transaction, the buyer has only his or her own resources to look to.

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About the Blogger

Rolf Howard

Rolf Howard

Rolf is Managing Partner of Owen Hodge Lawyers. He has been in the legal practice since 1986 and a partner of Owen Hodge Lawyers since 1992. Rolf focuses on assisting clients to proactively manage legal responsibilities and opportunities to achieve competitive advantage. Rolf concentrates on business planning and formation, directors’ duties, corporate governance, fund raising and business succession. His major interest is to assist business owners and their financial advisers plan and implement strategies to build and exit from successful businesses.

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