For most people, your house is your most important asset. So when you sell it (or any other property for that matter), it is absolutely critical to entrust the process to a conveyancer you can trust to act with both speed and integrity.
The conveyancer’s role
When you sell property, the conveyancer is the specialist attorney appointed as “transferring attorney” and tasked with carrying out the process of registering the buyer as the new owner. Only suitably qualified attorneys are admitted to practice as conveyancers, and only they can register transfer of ownership (and other property rights like mortgage bonds, servitudes etc) in the Deeds Office.
Your risk: What can go wrong?
- First step in the process is normally the appointment of an estate agent to find a buyer for you and, as our regular readers will know, it is vital to have a clear agreement in place with the agent. Neither of you will want disputes to arise over the terms of the mandate or entitlement to commission (you particularly want to avoid risks like having to pay double commission). Bottom line – get your attorney’s advice before you agree to anything.
- Next comes the actual sale agreement (also referred to as a “deed of sale” or “offer to purchase”). Not only must it be in writing, properly signed, and comply with a whole checklist of requirements, but things can go disastrously wrong if your agreement is in any way unclear, ambiguous, wrongly worded, incorrectly signed etc. It is also critical that you understand exactly what you are committing yourself to – with very few exceptions, our law will hold you to whatever terms and conditions are in the agreement. Sign nothing until your attorney has checked everything for you!
- “Time”, as the old saying goes, “is money”, and any delay in the transfer process puts you at risk of substantial loss. Your conveyancer jumps through all sorts of hoops for you before lodging transfer documents in the Deeds Office and whilst some steps in the process need co-operation from third parties like bondholders, SARS and the local municipality, others depend on your buyer’s active participation. If the buyer either wants to delay transfer or hasn’t got his/her ducks in a row, for example is struggling to come up with a bond or other finance, you need rapid corrective action to be taken. Choose a conveyancer you can rely on to move the process along with a minimum of delay.
Insist on using your own attorney
The bottom line is that you ultimately carry more risk than the buyer if things go wrong. It is entirely fair therefore that you as seller have the right to nominate your own attorney to attend to the conveyancing, and it is vital that the sale agreement confirms this unambiguously. The fact that the buyer normally pays the conveyancer (as part of the transfer costs) is irrelevant. There is nothing to stop the buyer from appointing his/her own attorney to monitor the transfer process at his/her own cost, although that is seldom necessary. If a buyer pushes for the appointment of another conveyancer on the basis of discounted fees, remember that any such discount benefits the buyer, not you.
Don’t let anyone take away your right to choose your own conveyancer!