The actual process to sell your own home, from listing to agreeing on a deal, is not necessarily dictated by a library full of legal requirements and obligations.
To sell your own property involves; preparation, promotion, realistic pricing, talking to buyers, showing buyers (inspections) and some negotiation to seal the deal. As long as you act fairly in all your dealings with any potential buyer, during the actual sale process, and your home is offered to the market in good condition (and in good faith), there are few definitive legal requirements you need to adhere to.
Each State and Territory in Australia differs when it comes to the legal obligations of home sellers before, during and after the actual marketing and sale process, but they are easily navigated and dealt with. For more detailed information about these obligations, check out our guide to property legislation in Australian States and Territories.
The question I am asked the most by potential sellers who wish to sell their own home or property is, “What about the legals?” or “Who does the contract when I get a deal?”
The answer is very simple. Just before or at the time you list your home for sale, talk to a local settlement agent, solicitor or conveyancer and put them on standby to put together a contract when you strike a deal with a buyer.
Be aware that in some States, particularly NSW and Vic, a contract needs to be in place before you go to market. Regardless, once you have shaken hands with a buyer and a deal done; contact your legal representative, give them the details of your buyer and the price/terms etc and they will put it all together and then execute the contract.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well I saved a bundle selling my own home, maybe I could save a few more bucks by doing my own legals.”
Yes, there are DIY Conveyancing kits which can be purchased online, or you may know someone who purports to have some legal experience to assist, but the carriage of a contract and the adherence to the terms and conditions, through to settlement, by the buyer and seller is not something I would recommend be taken on by a legal novice, or yourself for that matter.
This is also the view of the state government bodies responsible for real estate transactions (click relevant state for advice: NSW, Vic, QLD, WA, SA, Tas, ACT & NT) who all advise the use of a conveyancer, lawyer or settlement agent. Although, Consumer Affairs Victoria do offer a DIY conveyancing kit available in their bookstore.
Sure, marketing, engaging buyers and selling your home is a serious, yet very doable undertaking, but the legal ramifications of that process are less onerous compared to transacting real property; contractual obligations, the transfer of titles, discharge of mortgages, searches and everything else that has to be ticked off in a legal sense after you have shaken hands with the lucky buyer.
If you asked me whether or not you should handle your own legal processes, I would say; unless you have a solid background in Property Conveyancing – DON’T!
Even when it came time to sell my own home I employed the services of a reputable conveyancer to look after the contracts.
As a traditional Agent of almost 16 years, I cringe if I hear one of my sellers/clients say that they will be handling their own legals and the carriage of the contract.
Although not the majority, each time, as the completion of the contract was nigh (the settlement) you can back it in that something had been overlooked and the deal may be delayed with the potential for penalties and time sensitive delays.
It got real messy and stressful there for a while.
I remember one afternoon, a property was due to settle at say, 3pm, and five minutes before settlement, the ‘self acting’ sellers came bursting through the door of my office saying, “We’re not sure how much they are supposed to give us and what we have to pay out?” After a few minutes of calm mathematics, they regained their composure and trudged off to complete the Big Deal…it got real messy and stressful for a while.
Property Law is written and enacted for a reason, to protect the interests of both sides of the deal – sellers and buyers.
Compared to an Agent’s commission on the sale of a property, legal fees on the final transaction of the average Australian residential property are minor, and can range between $500 – $2,000 dependent upon the complexity and conditions of the contract.
That is a fairly small price to pay to ensure the sale (or purchase) of your asset worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, completes to your satisfaction and all parties leave the table, and move on or in, with a smile on their face.
Always seek the services of an expert in the field.
The risks of DIY conveyencing are real and can prove costly.