An attorney’s advice adds value when purchasing a house/property

To the layman, purchasing a house or property may seem straightforward so that there is no need for an attorney – you simply negotiate a price with the seller, you pay the agreed price to the seller who in exchange gives you a signed land transfer that you file with the Land Registry, and – voila! – you are the legal owner of the property.  But not so fast. There are very good reasons to have an experienced attorney advise and assist you in the legal process of acquiring title to the property. We call this process conveyancing, and the attorneys who provide this service are called conveyancers. A conveyancer will: 

(a)          check whether there are any legal issues regarding the title or use of the property;  

(b)          assist in any negotiations with the seller; 

(c)           prepare a contract containing the terms and conditions on which you will purchase the property, together with the land transfer documents; 

(d)          prepare a statement showing all the sums including stamp duty, discharge of charges over the property that are required to be paid at the closing of the purchase 

(e)          attend to the closing of the purchase on your behalf to ensure that the documents are correctly signed and delivered and the correct sums are paid, and attend to registration of the land transfers with the Land Registry on your behalf.  

Legal issues regarding the title or use of the property may affect your decision to purchase the property or, alternatively, the price that you are willing to pay. You should be advised

whether the seller has absolute or provisional title to the property. There may be easements over the property that will prevent you from building on it in the way you intended, or there may be restrictive covenants that require that any building or fence be of a certain type.  The property may be mortgaged to a bank which will need to receive part of the purchase monies before releasing its charge over the property.   

Having a signed contract upon which you have paid a deposit is important to secure the property for yourself while you await bank financing for the purchase and investigate any issues concerning title. It will contain conditions that allow you to cancel the purchase if they are not met. It will provide that you may require a halt on any registrations on the title to the property while you await the closing of the purchase so that you obtain priority. It may contain warranties that will protect you in the event that there are significant but undisclosed defects in the property.

Occasionally, purchasers wish to know whether the seller’s attorney may also act for them in the transaction. While this is theoretically possible with the consent of the seller, it is not advisable since the seller’s attorney will primarily be looking out for the interests of the seller and where these conflict with the interests of the purchaser they may find it difficult to give the necessary advice if this would cause the sale to be aborted or cause the seller to have to receive a lower price, for example. 

Similarly, some realtors discourage the use of attorneys because they fear the risk of losing their sales commission if the attorney scrutinizes the transactions closely and the sale does not proceed.  


Generally speaking, using a conveyancer takes much of the stress and consumption of time out of the process for you. A good conveyancer will help the process run smoothly with a satisfactory outcome.