19 Dec What is a Conveyancer?
All transactions regarding ownership of immovable property (vacant land, houses, flats, farms, and buildings) in South Africa are recorded in a public office, the ‘deeds office’. The records of the deeds office reflect (among other things) the owner of a particular property, the date the owner acquired it, and (if it was bought) the purchase price.
Immovable property can only be transferred by a conveyancer; a practising attorney who specialises in the preparation of deeds and documents. Our property registration system in South Africa is one of the safest and best in the world, which is dependent on the integrity and the proper execution of the functions of conveyancers and the staff of deeds registries. The word ‘conveyancing’ describes the administrative and legal procedures necessary to transfer ownership (and other rights) in immovable property.
Certain deeds and documents must be prepared and signed by a conveyancer, who accepts responsibility for the correctness and accuracy of certain facts. Conveyancers have proper knowledge of more than 390 pieces of legislation governing land registration as well as the common law, conference resolutions dating back to 1938, and all relevant Chief Registrar’s Circulars.
Usually, three ‘types’ of conveyancing attorneys are involved in the property buying/selling process:
- Transferring Attorneys transfer the property from the seller to the buyer. They represent the seller and are appointed by the seller.
- Bond Attorneys register the bond over the property in favour of the bank financing the purchase of the property. They represent the buyer and the bank granting the buyer’s home loan and are therefore appointed by the bank/financial institution.
- Cancellation Attorneys cancel the seller’s existing home loan on the property. They represent the bank cancelling the seller’s home loan and are appointed by the bank cancelling the seller’s bond.
In a typical registration and transfer process, the transferring conveyancing attorney oversees more than 50 activities involving up to 12 parties. The conveyancer deals with all the parties involved and assumes responsibility for the collection and payment of all amounts due (to the bank(s), agent(s), compliance bodies, local authority, SARS, body corporate, and, ultimately, the seller).
So how do I choose (and does it matter)?
The seller has the right to choose the conveyancer. The estate agent may make recommendations, but the seller’s choice should not be diluted by other relationships or interests which may not necessarily always be in their best interests. If you do not know the conveyancer, ask friends or colleagues who have recently sold a property to suggest a firm/conveyancer who provided exceptional service and support throughout the entire process, who continually addressed any problems that arose, professionally and competently, and who kept within timelines, all while keeping the parties fully informed of the progress of the matter.
The choice of a conveyancer is critical, particularly to avoid delays and ensure a personalised service that is in the interests of all parties. Always choose a reputable conveyancer who delivers on their promises and makes your transfer their priority.