Frequently Asked Questions

What does a conveyancer do?

Conveyancers liaise with your bank and the other party’s conveyancer to ensure that the transfer of property from one party to another runs smoothly. We give you legal advice regarding your conveyance and ensure your obligations are met. We’re also here to look out for your best interests, should this be reading through your contract to spot potential trouble, writing special conditions, performing searches on the property, lodging or removing caveats and recovering the certificate of title. Your conveyancer can explain in plain English what is required of you and spell out your options, so you are empowered to make an informed choice. The services we can provide are limited to what is in the Conveyancers Act (2006). This means we cannot give you financial advice, conduct building inspections, or market the property.

Should I appoint a conveyancer or a lawyer?

A conveyancer exclusively specialises in work pertaining to the legal transfer of property, whilst a lawyer may practice in a number of different areas. In that regard, appointing a conveyancer would be similar to seeing a specialist rather than a GP. However, not all conveyancers are alike, and will come with varying degrees of experience and understanding.

Your conveyancer should have sufficient understanding and experience with:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Litigation avoidance
  • Corporate structures and trusts
  • GST and GST Withholding
  • CGT Withholding
  • Foreign acquisitions and sales of property
  • Contract advice (especially for “Off the Plan” contracts)

You may find it helpful to find out how recommended the firm is, and whether they manage a trust account and can invest your deposit to earn you interest.

Conveyancing is a complicated process; there is a misconception that conveyancing is a purely administrative task and a conveyancer only has to follow a process from A to Z to get you to settlement. Unfortunately, around 50% of conveyancing transactions go wrong or a problem is identified, for example a party defaults, or other complicated investigation or negotiation is needed. Experience and being thoroughly up- to- date become critical at this point and this is where we shine. With us you will have a team of experts on your side with years of experience dealing with every possible worst-case scenario. In addition, we offer a fixed fee package, so you’ll know exactly what you will be charged, unlike some lawyers or other conveyancers who may charge by the hour, or charge for disbursements and each individual correspondence.

Why do I need a contract review?

A contract of sale is a legally binding document. When you sign it, you agree to be bound by the conditions it contains. The contract will describe exactly what it is you are buying, and what your obligations will be. Having a professional read over your contract prior to purchasing means you will know what it is you are agreeing to, any potential problems with the property, and most importantly, exactly what it is you are actually buying. Having professional advice means you will also be able to protect your best interests, as you will be able to set out conditions of your own to be included in your negotiations. Only around 20% of contracts and/ or vendors statements we review are completely straightforward without any issues or special conditions that clients will need to know about. If you have already signed and are in your cooling off period, having your contract of sale formally reviewed can help you identify any pitfalls while there is still time to get out.

You do not need to appoint us to have your contract reviewed. This service can be accessed at any time, and once you’re ready to proceed you can feel confident knowing your contract is thoroughly understood. In addition reviewing your contract of sale, we will clearly explain how to make an offer, what clauses to add to protect you for finance or building inspections, and answer any other questions you may have.

How do I make an offer and pay my deposit?

Ideally for a private sale, a purchaser should view a copy of the Contract of Sale and a signed s32 Vendors Statement prior to making an offer. This can help you understand exactly what you are purchasing and any potential red flags. However, should you find yourself in a position of wanting to move quickly and make an offer before seeing a contract, you should keep in mind that there is a short cooling off period (usually three days) where you will still be able to walk away without penalties (there is no cooling off period if you buy at an auction).

Prior to making an offer, you must consider the price you’re going to offer, what conditions you would like to include, and the date you would like the property to settle, as well as having an idea in mind of any compromises you would be willing to make. You can submit your offer to the agent informally by email, or by having a conversation with them. The agent will take your offer to the vendor and negotiations can begin. This kind of offer is not binding and must be formalised in writing in the Contract of Sale. When you have your contract reviewed we can explain exactly how to make a formal offer (where to sign and what information to include) and suggest wording for any special conditions you wish to include, such as finance or building/pest inspection clauses.

If the Vendor accepts your offer, you will be asked to pay a 10% deposit into the agents trust account. The deposit due date will be written in your Contract, and it is recommended not to pay the full deposit until the contract is unconditional (i.e. all the conditions have been satisfied and your finance approved). Rather than pay the full deposit upfront, you may have the option of paying a smaller holding deposit, with the remaining balance paid by the deposit due date.  Due to the rising rates of cyber-crime in Australia, always double check that account details are correct prior to transferring funds.

How do I give you instructions/ appoint you to act in my conveyancing?

We can be appointed online, or over the phone. This process is quick and easy, and we will start working on your conveyance immediately. One of our excellent conveyancers will be in touch to look after you and will be with you every step of the way through to settlement. To simply the process, you will not need to print, sign, scan and email back any appointment documents. Instead, we will send you an appointment authority that can be digitally signed on your computer or any touch screen mobile device. This document is automatically returned to your conveyancer and you will also receive a digital copy to keep for your own records. If you have used our contract review service, you will still need to give instructions for us to be acting as your conveyancer.

Why do I need a building inspection?

A building inspection is recommended to rule out any deficiencies the property might have that could change your mind about purchasing. These might include termites, water damage, or structural issues. You will buy the property ‘as is’ on the day of sale. That means that if the air conditioning doesn’t work, the plumbing has problems, or it is infested with termites, the vendor won’t fix those issues before settlement. Having a fresh pair of eyes who knows exactly what to look for is a valuable asset that can save you a lot of stress further down the line.

For new buildings, even if your property has a current builder’s warranty insurance policy, you should be aware that non- structural defects (which comprise more than 90% of the issues that we see) are only typically covered for the first 2 years. Trying to get a builder to rectify works once a development is finished is not always easy, so obtaining a building inspection for new properties is just as important as older properties.

What is a finance clause, and do I need one if I have pre-approval?

A finance clause means that if the purchaser does not secure finance from their lender by a specific date and for a specific amount they are able to exit the contract with no penalties (however there are strict obligations the purchaser needs to undergo first before they will able to prove that they tried their best to obtain the loan, so a finance clause should not be treated as an extended cooling off period). Having pre-approval from your bank means that they are willing to lend you a certain amount of money. It does not, however, mean that they will lend you the money for a specific property. They will need to assess the type, zoning and value of the property you have bought before providing you with a final approval. For this reason, having a safety net means a purchaser will not be trapped in a contract for a property they cannot pay for. Finance clauses can only be added for private sale contracts. If you are buying at auction you won’t be able to add one in, however you may be able add a finance clause if the auction ‘passes in’ (does not reach the vendors reserve) and you have the opportunity to negotiate afterwards.

What are the documents you’ve sent me?

Every client will have different needs, but in a general sense you can expect the following:

  • Appointment authority- this is the official document you sign to appoint us to be your conveyancer. This will be sent to you after we have opened your matter based on your initial instructions and includes the cost disclosure of our fees which will become due at settlement.
  • Verification of Identity (VOI)- this is a government mandated identity check for all property transactions in Victoria. The purpose of this check is to prevent fraud. A VOI is valid for two years, so if you buy or sell property with us again you will not need to do another one.
  • Client Authorisation Form- by signing this form you allow your conveyancer to complete your settlement electronically (electronic settlements have been compulsory in Victoria since 2018).
  • Duties Online Form- this form contains all the information that is required by the State Revenue Office, to determine how much stamp duty will need to be paid. Your conveyancer will fill out the information for you; you will only be required to check this information and sign off that it is correct.

This is a brief rundown of some of the documents involved in a property transaction. You can always contact your conveyancer for more information, or to discuss the documents required for your settlement in more detail.

How do I complete the documents you have sent me?

Our team is committed to finding sustainable, environmentally friendly solutions wherever we can. We also want to make your life and conveyance as easy as possible; in this regard we are leaders in our industry. Our digital signature systems minimise the amount of paper and carbon miles associated with printing and mailing out documents. Almost all documents we send to the email address you provide can be signed quickly and easily on your computer or any touch-screen mobile device. After clicking the link in the email you receive, you can review and sign these documents exactly as you would a paper document, without needing to print a thing. A completed copy will automatically be sent back to your file manager. The technology used is very secure and easy to use, however we are always happy to assist if you have any questions or would like someone to guide you through the process.

Do I need to send you back completed documents?

For all common documents (Verification of Identity, Duties Online, Disbursement Authority, etc.) digital copies will automatically be sent to your conveyancer, so there is no need for you to provide additional copies. The only time you will need to provide copies of documents to your conveyancer is when these are specifically requested from you. We will send unobtrusive reminders via email and SMS for outstanding documents, to make sure settlement can go ahead on time.

What is the section 27? When can I get my deposit? How do I get it?

A ‘Section 27’ is referring to a section of the Sale of Land Act in Victoria. In practice, it is an Early Release of Deposit Authority. What this means is that in certain circumstances, the deposit paid by a purchaser can be released to the vendor prior to settlement. Whether the deposit can be released to the vendor depends on a number of factors and is not a guaranteed thing. Therefore, a vendor should not rely on having access to these funds for making any big purchases prior to settlement, such as paying a deposit on a new property.

To obtain a s27, a Vendor must first sign and complete a Discharge Authority form for any loans they have for the property. Your conveyancer will send this to your bank and formally request a Section 27 Supporting Letter. The vast majority of banks will require the property to be sold prior to accepting this request. The letter contains information about your mortgage, which your conveyancer will use to assess whether it complies with the Section 27 Guidelines(something your Conveyancer can provide more information about). If it complies, your conveyancer will serve the Section 27 on the purchaser’s conveyancer. The purchasing party can sign off on the request, thus releasing the deposit to the vendor immediately. However, in most cases the purchasing party will exercise their legal right to wait 28 days, at which point the deposit must be released.

For the purchasing party, releasing the deposit early is considered early acceptance of title, which can come with certain risks. The purchaser’s conveyancer can object to the early release of deposit if they are not satisfied with the information provided in the section 27 request. A vendor’s agent may push for the early release of deposit monies, as under the act, agents can retain their commission when releasing the deposit funds, meaning they get paid early. However, it’s a multifaceted process with a number of factors that can cause delays and prevent the release of the deposit, so it’s not something to rely on.

Do I need to pay my rates/bills up until settlement?

No. Any bills that aren’t due before settlement should be left unpaid to avoid us adjusting for it at settlement and avoid accidentally paying them twice. However, any bills that are due before the settlement date should be paid by you to avoid potential late fees or penalties. Your purchaser will reimburse you for their share of any adjustable outgoing as part of settlement.

Why and when should I do a final inspection?

You should contact the selling agent to arrange a time to conduct your final inspection. This usually occurs in the week before settlement (ideally two days before settlement in case the vendor is occupying the property). This is your opportunity to make sure that the property is in the same condition as the day that you signed the contract (excluding fair wear and tear). If you feel the property is not in the same condition, you should immediately contact your conveyancer to discuss your options. It’s a good idea to take photos of the property when you first inspect it, so you have concrete proof of any major differences found in the final inspection.

Why do I need to confirm my bank details?

We take every precaution when it comes to preventing your valuable funds being stolen by cyber criminals. This includes verbally confirming the bank account details you have provided to ensure that nothing has been tampered with, and to prevent simple human error. Most cybercrime in the property industry occurs when criminals intercept and change bank details in emails.

What is stamp duty? When is it calculated? When do I have to pay it? Why do I have to pay it?

Stamp duty is a state government tax that is paid by the purchaser of a property. It is based on either the market value of the property or the price it sells for (the dutiable value) whichever is higher. The more expensive the property, the higher the stamp duty will be.

Stamp duty is calculated after you have signed the Digital Duties Form; this form will be sent directly to you by the State Revenue Office prior to settlement, and your conveyancer will contact you to let you know it is coming. For purchases made off-the-plan, you may be entitled to a concession on stamp duty and this ‘dutiable value’can only be calculated once the building is complete. Stamp duty will be paid as part of settlement.

You may not be required to pay stamp duty depending on your circumstances. There are some exceptions and discounts available for first home buyers, pensioners, and those planning to live in the property as their principle place of residence. It’s best to discuss your eligibility for an exemption or discount with your file manager.

Why do I need to complete my due diligence checks?

When you purchase a property, you are purchasing it ‘as is’. Completing your due diligence checks means that there will be no unexpected surprises for you after settlement. For example, if illegal building works were done on the property, after settlement that will become your problem, as the new owner, to solve. A due diligence checklist is included in your contract of sale to ensure you cover your bases before proceeding with a purchase, or you can access the full list from consumer affairs here.

Why has my off-the-plan settlement date been pushed out?

Delays are very common and should be expected when purchasing off-the-plan. When a sales representative gives you a development completion date, this is essentially a calculated guess. There are numerous unforeseeable factors that can slow down the completion of your purchase, including delays with building works, slow sales or delays in obtaining finance, achieving compliance with the relevant authorities, even just bad weather. The predicted settlement time is not something you should rely on, especially if you are planning to move in to the property or sell your current home.

How are funds directed at settlement?

For vendors, we will confirm prior to settlement by telephone which account you want funds deposited into, and the money will be transferred directly once settlement is complete (allowing for normal bank delays).

For purchasers, your bank will contribute the loan amount, and you will need to cover any shortfall- other monies required if the loan is insufficient, or to cover additional costs at settlement. These funds will be debited out of your bank from an account nominated by you to be your shortfall account,or alternatively you can transfer funds to our trust account. Any excess funds will be returned to you after settlement.

What extra fees are payable at settlement?

In general, for a standard settlement, the following will be payable:

  • Stamp duty- paid to the State Revenue Office
  • State Revenue Office stamp duty certification
  • Land Titles Office lodgement fees
  • Electronic settlement fees- paid to the settlement platform provider e.g. PEXA (now compulsory in Victoria)
  • Title Insurance Fees- this is an optional insurance policy with a one off-payment that is due at settlement, paid to the insurance provider
  • Fees charged by your lender to complete the settlement
  • Council and water rates (plus land tax and owner’s corporation fees if applicable)
  • AB Morison conveyancing fees are paid at settlement.

You will be sent a breakdown of what fees are owing closer to your settlement date, and which point these can be discussed on more detail with your conveyancer.

What is the PEXA fee? How much is it? Why do I have to pay it?

PEXA is an electronic settlement platform, meaning that instead of each parties’ conveyancers and banks meeting in person to hand over paper documents and cheques, the entire transaction takes place online. Electronic settlements were made compulsory by the Victorian government in 2018.

As of the time of writing, PEXA is the only electronic settlements platform. The fee to conduct a settlement on PEXA starts at $112.64 and can vary depending on the number of titles being transferred. This fee is required to be paid for every settlement.

Why do I need to pay land tax at settlement?

Land tax is a tax paid to the State Revenue Office on investment properties. You do not have to pay land tax if you live in the property. However, if you are a purchaser who intends to live in the property, and the person who owned it before you owned it as an investment property, you will be required to pay the vendor’s land tax from the time you take over ownership of the property, to the end of the calendar year of your settlement if the land value of your property is over the threshold set by the State Revenue Office (  This feels like a significant injustice to many of our clients who are buying a property as their home,  however it will be a one-off payment that will not be applicable again, so long as you are living in the property.

Can I change my settlement date?

Changing your settlement date should not be done lightly, and you should first obtain advice from your conveyancer if this is something you want to do. It may not be possible or in your best interest to change the date of settlement. If you bring the date of settlement forward and your bank is not able to settle on that new day, you can expect to pay daily penalty interest, and be held liable for additional conveyancing fees from both your conveyancer, and the other party’s conveyancer.

In the absolute worst-case scenario, a purchaser could lose their deposit and potentially be pursued for additional costs if the property has depreciated in value since signing the original contract. You may be better to wait until your mortgagee is ready for settlement before asking for the settlement to be changed.

How long does the actual settlement take?

An average settlement will take approximately 20-30 minutes to be completed on PEXA. Your conveyancer will keep you updated if there are any delays and will always notify you as soon a settlement is complete.

Where/when do I collect my keys?

The real estate agent will be notified once settlement is complete, and this gives them the authority to release the keys. It’s a good idea to call the agent’s office first to check that they have received the notification, so you don’t have to wait around. Once the keys are released you can collect them from the agent and start moving in to the property.

What are adjustments?

When you own a property, you are required to pay council and water rates. Additionally, you may have to pay owner’s corporation (OC) fees if the property is part of a body corporate (typically the case for apartments). If you do not live in the property, you will also have to pay land tax. These rates become due at different parts of the year for different cycles, for example, council rates are paid per financial year, so the billing cycle is from July 1stthrough to June 30th(even if you pay in quarterly instalments). Land tax is charged by calendar year, that is January 1stto December 31st.  Water and OC fees are generally billed quarterly (this can vary). When we talk about adjustments, your conveyancer is essentially ensuring that there are no outstanding debts at settlement, and that the purchaser is contributing towards their fair share of fees within the aforementioned billing cycles i.e. each party is paying for the exact amount of time they own the property, up until the end of the billing cycle that the settlement date falls in.

For example, let’s say the total council rates for a property came to $1000, and settlement was on January 1st. The vendor would pay the full $1000 for the financial year billing cycle. The purchaser’s conveyancer would then adjust for this so that the purchaser is contributing $500 back to the vendor at settlement, therefore each party is paying for the period of time that they will be in control of the property up until the end of the billing cycle. The same process applies to all the relevant rates and taxes that are applicable to the property, within their respective billing periods. These will be detailed to you on your statement of adjustments, which will typically outline how many days the purchaser ‘allows for’- i.e. the number of days between settlement and the end of the billing cycle that the purchaser is reimbursing the vendor for. On average, a purchaser might like to put aside around $3000 to budget for this allowance.

A good conveyancer will obtain updated certificates and/or contact the relevant water, council and OC authorities prior to settlement to ensure that the property transfers to the purchasing party free of any outstanding debt, and to ensure that any outstanding interest (for example if the vendor has overdue fees) or special levies are accounted for (note: special levies that are struck before the contract is signed are the responsibility of the vendor; those struck after the contract is signed are the responsibility of the purchaser- these are not adjusted at settlement). Your conveyancer is responsible for ensuring that funds are paid to the correct authorities, and that these same authorities receive notices of acquisition to ensure the purchasing party receives ongoing rates notices.

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