Buying Or Selling A Home: Do I Really Need A Lawyer?

Tony Buckwell
December 3, 2021

If you're looking to buy or sell a home in New Zealand, you may be wondering if you really need to involve a lawyer.

After all - lawyers can be expensive, right? Can't you just download the legal forms for a small fee online?

When undertaking a real estate transaction in New Zealand, I highly recommend having an experienced lawyer on your side. 

Here's why. 

Lawyers help you avoid legal headaches. 

Buying and selling real estate has many legal pitfalls for the unwary. 

Although a real estate transaction looks straightforward from the outside, and most sales go through without any problems, there are times when things may go wrong. Your lawyer is there to avoid these issues or help you if any problems arise. 

Woman with headache at computer

The benefits outweigh the costs.

Although the cost of using their service can seem high, in reality, it is a small price to pay when weighing this up against the potential costs of a transaction that goes bad.

I like the old expression – "If you think a good lawyer is expensive, you should see how much a bad one can cost you!"

Can my Real Estate Agent or Salesperson give me legal advice?

While a skilled and experienced real estate salesperson will be familiar with many of the legal issues involved in selling your home, they can't offer you proper legal advice. 

Therefore you'll need to appoint a conveyancing lawyer (also known as a solicitor) to help.

lawyer chest

If you don't have a lawyer, your salesperson should be able to explain how you can find one and possibly provide a selection of reputable professionals in your area.

How much does a property lawyer cost? 

Many lawyers offer a fixed-fee service for sale and purchase transactions (also known as "conveyancing"). They are usually happy to include a pre-contract consultation as part of that fixed-fee service. I suggest you give them a call as soon as you think you might sell, and they will guide you through the process.

What does a Conveyancing Lawyer do? 

Your lawyer's primary responsibilities are:

  • To make sure the contract protects your interests.
  • To liaise with the buyer's lawyer about paying the deposit and satisfying any conditions.
  • To liaise with your bank to release your mortgage in preparation for settlement.
  • To liaise with your body corporate, if applicable.
  • To complete settlement on the day that keys are handed over to the buyer.
  • To pay off your mortgage after the sale is completed.
  • To cover other issues such as your rates, insurance, wills, etc.
  • In general, most lawyers will deduct their fees from the sale proceeds.

When do I need to contact a Conveyancing Lawyer?

While you definitely need a lawyer to complete the settlement of your sale, you technically don't need a lawyer to sign a 'Sale and Purchase Agreement'. However, it's wise to speak to your lawyer as soon as you have decided to put your property on the market.

Real estate transaction in kitchen

Helpful Tips

Here are some key things to remember:

  • When selling, if you want your salesperson to send a copy of the offer to your lawyer before you sign, let your lawyer know what's happening beforehand. Make sure they can act quickly when it arrives (as they might be busy or on holiday). You need to be pushing forward with your salesperson as soon as they receive a written offer.
  • If you need to be out of town during the selling process, you may also need to talk to your lawyer about signing a power of attorney document so that someone else can sign urgently required documents in your absence.
  • In New Zealand, a verbal contract for real estate is not binding on either party, so it must be in writing.
  • In New Zealand, almost all property sale contracts are written on the standard contract approved by the Auckland District Law Society (except auctions and tenders).
  • A real estate salesperson must present all written offers to the seller by law.

You might need to contact your lawyer immediately if your sale is unusual in some way. Some examples are:

  • You have agreed to buy another property.
  • You have tenants on the property.
  • You are in a relationship break-up.
  • You are in default on your mortgage.
  • You are in the process of subdividing your property.

As you can see, solicitors have a critical role when buying or selling a property. 

What are your thoughts?

I’m always open to a no-obligation chat. Fill out the form below and I'll get in touch as soon as possible.

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