Do it yourself conveyancing / legals Queensland

I recently purchaced a property, doing my own conveyancing.  The process is pretty straight forward, and I recommend that anyone with a bit of commonsense to do it.

Even if you do use a lawyer, then you need to take an interest in the process.  They only make the most basic checks, and there could be major problems with the property that you will not be made aware of until it is too late.

I purchased a kit for $99.50, which I found to be woffly and rather useless, missing key points.  So I decided to write up some notes here to help people.

I am not a lawyer -- no lawyer would be stupid enough to waste their time writing up a document like this for free!  So this is not legal advice.  If it all goes wrong you could loose everything.  But it is probably less likely than if you would be struck by lightening.

Most of the time the process is smooth and easy.  But if there is the slightest issue then seek qualified help, obviously.

Any errors or suggestions in this document to  But I do not provide advice on conveyancing.

The basic process

  1. You append additional conditions to the standard REIQ contract.  Few lawyers will warn you do do this, but the "standard" contract is far from fair, even after the government forced the REIQ to address its worst provisions.
  2. A price is negotiated, sign the contract.  Many agents will exptect the buyer to make a formal written committment to purchase before you even know if the vendor is serious.  I do not believe that this is really in the seller's interest, but it is what is done.
  3. Seller pays a deposit.  This should not be more than about 2%.  There is no advantage to the buyer or seller for a huge deposit, but there is to the real estate agent who gets to keep it if there is a default.  (The agent gets it, not the seller.)  It must not be more than 10% or the sale becomes an "installment" sale with special rules.
  4. Buyer does lots of searches to check if the property is OK.  Most important search is to talk to the neighbours.
  5. Buyer arranges finance.  Tells vendor when OK.  Maybe pays additional deposit.
  6. Buyer sends a "Settlement Notice" to the titles office.  This locks the title for a month or two.
  7. Buyer fills out transfer and stamp duty forms, gives them to vendor.  Adjustments to price for rates etc. are calculated.
  8. At settlement, buyer's bank pays stamp duty to vendor's solicitor, other cheques as directed by the vendor.  Vendor's bank gives buyer's bank signed, stamped transfer plus release of mortgage.  Buyer and seller themsleves do nothing, but usually need to be there to witness the proceedings.
  9. Happy days.

Special conditions

The REIQ contract is not sacrosanct.  It was written by the real estate institute for the benefit of real estate agents.  Period.

If you need to write additional clauses for your circumstance, then the important thing is to think it through carefully, what may go wrong, and then use however many words it takes to write up the issue clearly.  Do not feel restricted by the space on the standard contract, add extra pages if necessary.  For example, never write something like "Subject to internet."  Instead "The buyer may terminate this contract within 14 days if they are unable to ascertain that wired broadband internet will be available at least 5 megabits per second."  Say.

These are some conditions I would reccommend for the buyer:-
Notwithstanding earlier conditions in the contract the parties agree:-
  1. The vendor's representative shall accept and process the buyer's stamp duties at no additional cost to the buyer.
  2. In the unlikely event that the purchaser cannot settle on time then the vendor shall be compensated by 20% divided by 365 interest on the amount outstanding for each day late.  This is also payable if the vendor chooses to terminate the contract for this reason which can only be done if settlement is more than 14 days late.
  3. If the buyer defaults on the contract then the seller may retain the deposit but may not claim any additional damages.  Seller shall give buyer two business days notice to correct any default and the buyer shall not be in default if they correct the issue within that period.
  4. If the buyer is not satisfied with the result of their due dilligence enquiries then they may terminate this contract within fourteen days, with all deposits refunded.
  5. The property is at the sellers risk until settlement.
Individuals can no longer pay stamp/transfer duties directly to the govenment in practice, and some vendor's solicitors have been known to charge a fat fee for collecting it on the government's behalf.  If the vendor also does not have a solicitor you will need to engage one just to process the stamp duty(!)

Read clause 9 of the REIQ contract.  It says that if the slightest thing goes wrong the buyer loses everything.  "Time is of the essence", so be a day late with something and too bad, so sad.  Even if it is the bank's fault.  And the real estate agent keeps most of the deposit.  Fortunately most vendors are not arseholes, and so this rarely becomes an issue.  But if the vendor does not sue when they can, then the vendor still owes the real estate agent the deposit as double commission -- that is in the REIQ agreement between the seller and the agent.  My vendor's agent confided in me that he had had such an issue a few years ago, and the seller made the buyer pay many thousand dollars extra because the bank was a day late on settlement.  The bank could not be sued.  Clauses 2 and 3 is much more reasonable while still protecting the seller.  

Due diligence is essential.  It means you find out all about the property you intend to buy.  And no, it is not reasonable to do all this work before you have agreed a price with the vendor.  The clause essentially lets the buyer out of the contract for any reason, but so does the finance clause.  If the vendor objects, reduce the time to seven days and get busy.  Or in an emergency use the finance clause but that is messy.  No, the REIQ contract does not protect you., read it.

If the vendor (or more likely their agent) refuses these conditions be wary.  If you need to use the finance clause due to a problem that you discover with the property, then be careful.  Do not be blatent, find some plausible reason why the finance is not acceptable.  E.g. you had not considered what would happen if interest rates rose.  Try to do it within the five day cooling off period.  And seek urgent but sensible legal advice.

There is an idiot clause in the REIQ contract that the buyer must take out insurance immediately.  Of course the seller never cancells their insurance, so it ends up doubly insured.  Clause 5 fixes that.

For the seller I would add some small daily fee to the buyer if they fail to get finance.  They should know, and you want them to tell you promptly.


The term "searches" normally refers to a few very formal ones that cost money and give you some sort of certificate.  But the buyer should do broader searches than that.  For example, main roads will give you a certificate saying that they do not want to resume any of your land.  But nothing will be said about the fact that they will bulldoze the house next door to build a super highway.

The most important search is to talk the neighbours.  Find out about the new super highway or crime that eminates from the hostle two doors way. Talk to lots of neighbours, on all sides.

The next best thing to do is go into council and ask them about the area.  They have lots of maps and can tell you many things, such as where the sewer lines go.

Here are a few searches that may or may not be relevant.  
Note that with the standard contract there is very little the buyer can do if more subtle problems are found. Clause 7 is very weak.  That is why a due dilligence clause is needed, and searches need to be done within that period.


Check that the title is *exactly* the same as the contract, e.g. with the spelling of the names.  For all following forms use whatever is on the Title, not the contract.  

On the title search, if it says that "The certificate of Title Issued: Yes" then there is a physical title document that is needed at settlement.  This is rare, as most titles have been "converted" to electronic.  Why would you need the paper title given they have been done away with, you may ask.  What mystical procedure is required to "convert" a title?  Don't ask, the titles office is not about common sense, it is about rules, procedures and tradtions.

As a buyer, having done a title search, you first submit a settlement notice to lock the title.  Download, and carefully follow the instructions on the form, take care with spellings etc.  "Title Reference" means the title number, not your reference.

Then the transfer.  Fill it out carefully, instructions provided.  It may be rejected if there is the slightest error, or if, heaven forbid, it has been folded.  The titles office enjoys slapping requisition fees ($40) for the slightest issue.  Property information -- the buyer's address is where rates notices will go, can use a post office box.

Make sure that you know who the vendor is.  The Transfer the buyer receives at settlement just has a signature and  stamp, could be anybody.  Ask to see good ID, and get a photo copy of it.  Possibly via their agent or solicitor and witnessed by that agent or solicitor.  This is not normally done, which would make it very easy to sell somebody else's property!  Just send the titles office a stamped transfer and they process it without question.

Joint Tennants -- If one of you dies the other automatically owns the property.  Independent from dealing with the estate.  The normal situation for husband/wife main home.
Tennants in Common -- You own shares as specified.  
You cannot change this later without paying the government a fat fee, stamp duty.

Adjustments are all specified in the contract, just read it.  Basically the buyer pays per rata.  Very straight forward and not very important as the money is small.

You then arrange settlement with the two banks, normally at the seller's bank.  

Other Notes

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