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One of the most significant financial transactions you may undertake is buying or selling a residential property. Seeking the advice of a solicitor before signing any contracts is essential to ensure confidence in your decision and to prevent any avoidable costs or issues from arising.

Conveyancing is the process of transferring property ownership from a seller to a buyer. While you may choose to handle the conveyance yourself, this comes with inherent risks. Solicitors and real estate agents can assist with conveyancing, but it’s essential to understand their different roles. Solicitors are experts trained in conveyancing law and can guide you through a transaction, ensure your interests are protected, and provide legal advice on special conditions and other legal matters that affect conveyancing law. Real estate agents, on the other hand, are the seller’s representatives who receive a commission from the seller and are responsible for obtaining the best price and contract terms for the seller. However, they are not qualified to provide legal advice on the contract, draft clauses or modify the pre-printed contract in any way.

By law, if you’re selling a residential property, you’re required to disclose specific information to the buyers before they enter into a contract. Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to penalties, and the buyer may be able to terminate the contract and recover compensation from you. For instance, you must disclose all encumbrances affecting the property, give a disclosure notice to a prospective buyer if the property has a pool, and provide a pool safety certificate or notice of no pool safety certificate to a buyer before settlement. Moreover, you must notify the buyer if the property is on the contaminated land or environmental management register or if there is an application or order concerning a tree on the property. If you’re selling a unit or townhouse, you must provide the buyer with information about the body corporate.

A standard contract has been developed by the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) and the Queensland Law Society for residential property conveyancing. Before signing, it’s crucial to seek legal advice to ensure that the contract and disclosure material are correct and meet your needs. A standard contract cannot accommodate the individual circumstances of every transaction, and your solicitor may add special clauses to the contract, such as depending on the sale of your existing property or not subject to flooding and complying with all necessary statutory approvals.

Most residential property sales in Queensland have a cooling-off period of five business days, commencing when the buyer or their lawyer receives a copy of the contract signed by both the buyer and the seller. If you decide not to proceed with the sale within this period, you must cancel the contract and give notice to the seller in the specified way. You must pay the seller 0.25% of the purchase price of the property, and if your deposit exceeds the 0.25%, the balance must be refunded to you. However, no cooling-off period applies to buyers who purchase at auction or to contracts that a registered bidder enters into by 5 pm on the second clear business day after the property was passed in at auction.

When buying a house, your solicitor will perform various tasks, including checking the title and plan of the land for easements, caveats, and other encumbrances, conducting all the usual searches, checking for disputes or other charges affecting the unit or townhouse, calculating adjustments to the purchase price, preparing all documents, and attending settlement to ensure you gain good title to the property. When selling a house, you must speak to your solicitor about various aspects, such as the form of appointment with the real estate agent, fixtures and fittings, obligations to any existing tenants, alterations you have made to the property, the date of settlement, the timing of any new home purchase, and any special terms that you want in the sale.

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