Conveyancing attorneys – their role in a property transaction

The change of ownership of immovable property doesn’t happen when the offer to purchase is signed, or even when the purchase price is paid to the seller.

For ownership to change hands, the property needs to go through a registration process at the deeds office, where it is transferred into the new owner’s name, and this process requires the services of conveyancing attorneys.

“Each time a property is sold it will go through the conveyancing process and a new title deed will be issued in the name of the new owner. Part of the process is also to remove the property from the seller’s name,” says Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

“The title deed ensures the certainty of the owners’ title to the property they have bought.”

According to Goslett, the conveyancing process requires a registering attorney, a cancellation attorney and a transferring attorney, although one person can carry out all three functions.

The transferring attorney is appointed by and will represent the sellers, who can expect certain services during the process. First off, the attorney should always protect the interest of the sellers. Another responsibility is to keep the sellers updated on the progress of the transaction.

The conveyancer must advise the sellers on the content of the offer to purchase, especially if the contract contains certain suspensive conditions, such as the offer being subject to the buyer’s bond approval or selling another property. The attorney must also keep the seller informed of their obligations to ensure that the transfer of the property is not delayed.

“The attorney will meet with the sellers to go over all documentation and explain anything the sellers don’t fully understand. Once the sellers have been informed of everything and all has been clarified, the sellers will then sign the necessary documentation to conclude the transaction,” Goslett says.

“Once all the documents are ready, the attorney will lodge them with the Deeds Office.”

He says the attorney will be in contact with the sellers’ bank and will inform them once their bond has been settled and cancelled. The attorney will also be able to tell the sellers whether there are any penalties or administrative charges that need to be paid, which would affect the eventual settlement balance. Certain notice periods may need to run their course before the money is paid over to the seller.

“Before any guarantees are issued in respect of the transaction, the attorney must obtain the sellers’ instruction,” says Goslett.

“To ensure that the process runs as smoothly and as quickly as possible, the conveyancing attorneys will do everything in their power to expedite the registration of the property. Ideally, they will aim to close the transaction on the date that was agreed upon in the offer to purchase, provided there are no unexpected delays. Bearing in mind that they are heavily dependent on several external parties such as banks, city councils and other officials, this is no mean feat.

On the day that the property has been registered in the new owner’s name, the attorney will inform the sellers.

“Once everything has been concluded, and the home has been successfully registered, the attorney will account to the sellers for any fees that relate to the transaction. Sellers can expect to receive this account within two days of the property’s date of registration,” Goslett says.