When you’re buying a home your focus is generally on where you want to live, how much you can afford and borrow and working out how to squeeze all the open houses into your already busy weekend. Chances are nominating a settlement agent has not even entered your mind.
At the time of signing the contract there’s every chance the real estate agent or developer will direct you towards their recommended settlement agent. Bear in mind the agent is engaged by the seller and as such is acting in their best interests. Remember it’s your settlement and ultimately your choice.
Who is a settlement agent?
A settlement agent is a trained and qualified professional that is engaged to facilitate the transfer of the legal ownership of property.
The process in Western Australia is property conveyancing by settlement agents. Basically, our role is to get the client from point of sale to settlement as efficiently and effectively as possible.
In order to carry on business as a settlement agent in WA, there is a requirement to be licensed and to hold a current training certificate, which is granted by the Department of Commerce (DOC). This will give the title of Licensed Conveyancer.
Why do you need a good settlement agent?
Your settlement agent should have a thorough understanding of your state’s conveyancing regulations and legislation. In addition, for WA residents they should be a holder of a Settlement Agents Licence, a Member of AICWA and CPC Accredited giving you greater certainty in knowing they are qualified, experienced and capable of providing sound advice.
Some of the things your settlement agent will do include:
- Review the offer and acceptance contract.
- Search the Certificate of Title and confirm correct property ownership, and search for any relevant encumbrances. Copies of which are provided to you.
- Conduct and/or provide Verification of Identity services.
- Liaise with you, your real estate agent, finance broker and bank regularly so all parties are kept fully informed.
- Stamp contract and Transfer via in-house ROL service.
- Provide confirmation of settlement in writing and final settlement statement.
A word of advice; unless you’re a licensed settlement agent it would be unwise to represent yourself at a property settlement. Experience and qualifications always benefit the clients best interest in any industry service.
When should you start talking to a settlement agent?
It should be sooner rather than later. Even before looking for a property it’s best to know what your in for in terms of budget. Once you understand your target property budget, visit the KDD Conveyancing website for an instant property settlement quote. Not only does it outline the settlement fees, you’ll also receive the cost breakdown of stamp duty, and Landgate registration fees. This should set you up with an informed property budget so you can start looking for your dream home.
What should you look for in a settlement agent?
- Accreditation – settlement agents must be licensed by the DOC to operate in WA.
- Experience – a settlement agent that brings personal knowledge of the local market to your transaction can be a great relief for you (buyer) and the homeowner (seller).
- Communication – the right settlement agent will consistently be in touch with you, your real estate agent, and the seller’s settlement agent.
- Listening and understanding – every property transaction is different in its own way. As such, your settlement agent should look into your particular situation by asking you the right questions.
- Fabulous attitude – it’s important to choose a settlement agent who has a great character, is flexible, adaptive and keeps their cool in negotiations.
- Fees – A settlement agent must provide you with a written quote. Pay attention to whether the fee is fixed or you’ll end up paying extra fees if your case becomes complicated after the settlement.
- E-conveyancing – with the real estate industry striving towards 100% online network application, making the change to electronic conveyancing is the best move for future viability. Find a settlement agent that is aware of this trend and embraces the change.
The future of settlements
The introduction of e-conveyancing in Australia is the biggest industry reform for the property sector since the introduction of the Torrens Title system.
E-conveyancing is the electronic settling of the conveyancing transaction through the online platform provided by Property Exchange Australia Limited (PEXA). The settlement agents of the involved parties and their lenders participate in an electronic workspace. The process covers the preparation for and execution of settlement and registration. Basically, the platform is a virtual settlement room.
The benefits of e-conveyancing:
- Saves time – time no longer spent chasing lenders, instructing agents, attending physical settlement rooms and queuing at land registries.
- Increased certainty – the platform ensures the involved parties have accurate information before advancing to settlement. You can monitor where your counter-parties are in the process and provide accurate information directly to your client at the click of a button.
- Flexibility – there is no need to have a physical settlement room to finish a transaction. You can do transactions and updates from anywhere on the planet.
- Greater transparency – since settlement agents and their clients can check the status of all documents in the transaction.
- Improved customer service – the platform provides up-to-date information and settlement agent clients will receive instant feedback. Buyers enjoy the peace of mind that comes with real time lodgement on a title.
For more information for first time buyers take a look at our advice for first home buyers, a first home buyers guide to the extra costs of buying a home and the pros and cons of building your first home.