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Legal steps of selling a house

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Legal steps of selling a house

Selling a house is a big decision that has many layers of procedures. Cleaning, deciding on price, and finding a buyer for your property are all things you might be thinking about in the early stages of selling it. But there is little you can action before you have a plan and support for the legal proceedings that are necessary in order to make the sale legitimate. Once you have the legal side of things covered, the process of selling your house is a lot more straightforward, and you can begin to focus on the other things.

Here are the legal steps you need to follow to make your sale as smooth as possible:

Research and Prepare

Research and preparation is a really important first step to take when it comes to selling your property. This is for several reasons. First of all, the laws around selling your property differ on a state-by-state basis in Australia. It is important you look into this before you do anything else, as in some states you are required to have legal documents prepared before you list your house on the market, otherwise you will end up copping a fine unknowingly.

There are also other legal details around the selling process that vary depending on which state you are in, like cooling-off period lengths, contract of sale requirements and in what order certain processes must be completed, so it’s best to research thoroughly as you don’t want to miss anything. Secondly, it is important that your property is in an acceptable state to be sold, and is in line with council requirements. Any obvious repairs should be undertaken before hiring a legal professional.

Find a Solicitor/Conveyancer

If you are selling your house privately (good choice!) there is no need to hire an agent. The next step you need to take is to seek out a solicitor or a conveyancer to help you with preparing the documents you need to sell your property and make sure everything runs smoothly (the documents you need to sell your house). Selling your house without an agent doesn’t add any additional legal processes to selling your house - you would have to hire one anyway to prepare the documents.

Prepare the Contract of Sale

The contract of sale is one of the two most important documents you need to sell a house (what is a contract of sale and why do I need one?). The contract of sale is a legally binding agreement that exists between a buyer and a seller which details exactly what condition the property is in at the time of signing the contract, the amount that the property has agreed to be sold for and the date at which the house will be handed over (the settlement date). The mutual signing of the contract of sale is called an ‘exchange’ and means that two parties are now committed to the sale. Always go through the contract of sale while your solicitor is present before you sign.

Prepare the Vendors Statement

The second important document you need to sell is a vendors statement, also called a section 32. This document outlines the specifications concerning that land the property is built on, including any restrictions the council has placed on it according to the ‘zone’ it is in. It also includes information about the utilities the property has, drainage, powerlines, and pipelines. The vendors statement must be complete and sufficient and contain all necessary and correct information about the property to be considered valid, otherwise the contract of sale can be withdrawn, and you will lose your buyer. That is why it is important to have both the contract of sale and vendors statement prepared by a solicitor or conveyancer, as they will do it correctly and avoid any bumps in the road from derailing your sale. (Conveyancer or Solicitor - what's the difference?)

Discharge your mortgage if you have one

If you have an outstanding mortgage on your home, it must be finalised before you go to settlement. This process may take some time so it might be a good idea to find out the cost and timeframe for discharge before you put your house on the market so you don’t run into any deadline issues with the buyers. Organise a complete discharge form with your solicitor or conveyancer to provide to the lender.


Hooray! You have successfully made it to settlement, the final stage of selling your property (Your guide to settlement day). During settlement, the seller receives the money owed from the buyer, and the keys are handed over. Settlement also includes a cooling-off period, which typically ranges from 2 to 5 days in which the buyer can conduct final assessments on the property or change their mind about the sale. Once the cooling-off period is over (Cooling off periods State by state), the sale is locked in and both parties must hand over what is owed to the other. Settlement generally takes place 6 weeks after the contract of sale is exchanged.