You can get advice on buying and selling property from experts such as buyer's advocates, estate agents, conveyancers and legal practitioners.
We recommend you engage your own legal practitioner or conveyancer.
On this page:
Buyer’s agents and estate agents
A buyer's agent, also known as a buyer’s advocate, is a licensed estate agent who, for a fee, acts for a buyer instead of a seller. You can find out if a buyer's agent is licensed by checking our Public register of licensed estate agents.
An estate agent cannot act for a buyer as a buyer's agent and for a seller on the same property transaction.
If you decide to use a buyer's agent, you will sign a buyers’ agency authority. Carefully read the authority before you sign it, as it is the legal document that gives the buyer's agent authority to act for you, and sets out the fees the agent will charge for their services.
What a buyer’s agent can do
A buyer's agent can help you:
- access data and information about the local property market that is not readily available to the public
- establish what criteria are most important to you in a property
- find, assess and shortlist properties that meet your criteria
- access off-market properties (that is, properties that have yet to be advertised for sale)
- deal with estate agents selling different properties
- determine a fair price for a property
- inspect a property
- negotiate a price, or bid at auction on your behalf
- follow up until a sale is finalised and liaise with related parties during the purchasing process
- select a property manager.
Choosing a buyer's agent
Before choosing a buyer’s agent, you should think about the level of service you need. Do you only need help negotiating a price or bidding at auction, or do you want assistance with the entire purchasing process?
Talk to several buyers’ agents to find the right one for you. Consider these questions:
- How long have they been a licensed estate agent?
- How long have they acted as a buyer’s agent?
- How many buyers have they successfully helped to buy property?
- Does their business exclusively represent buyers, or also act for sellers?
- What is their policy on acting for other buyers with the same or similar search criteria as you, during the period of the agency authority?
- Are they experienced in property research, price negotiation and bidding at auction?
- Do they have access to quality data and information about the property market?
- Do they have a large network of selling agent contacts, including in areas of interest to you?
- In what way, and how often, will they communicate with you to provide progress updates?
Before signing an agency authority
If you decide to engage a buyer's agent, carefully read their agency authority before you sign it. Make sure you fully understand the authority’s terms and conditions, and the fees and charges you will incur for the services the buyer’s agent will perform.
If there is anything you don’t understand, consider seeking legal advice.
Consider these questions:
- What time period does the agency authority cover?
- What services are covered? Are any services excluded?
- What commissions or fees will you be charged for services performed? Will you be charged a:
- fixed fee, or
- percentage of the purchase price of any property you buy?
- What will you be charged if they don’t find a property you like?
- Can you terminate the authority if you aren’t happy with their service? Will you be charged for doing so?
- Do they have professional indemnity insurance?
- Do they receive any rebates (including discounts, commissions or other benefits) from third parties or service providers they may refer you to?
Before you engage a buyer’s agent, make sure that they are a licensed estate agent by checking our Public register of licensed estate agents.
You can negotiate the cost of commissions and fees, as they are not set by law.
Professional conduct rules applying to buyers’ agents
Buyers’ agents are subject to the same general rules of professional conduct as other estate agents. They must act in their client’s best interests, except if it would be unlawful, unreasonable, improper or against a client’s instructions to do so.
Estate agents acting as buyers’ agents (and any agents’ representatives working for them) must keep the buyer informed of each stage of the negotiation of a purchase price, in accordance with the buyer’s instructions.
Estate agents' responsibilities to buyers
Although an agent's responsibility is to the seller, they are also obliged to act responsibly and ethically when dealing with you, the buyer.
As a buyer, you can expect an estate agent to:
- take your details and provide free information advice about relevant properties for sale
- answer any questions you have
- arrange inspections
- give you a Statement of Information for a property for sale
- provide a copy of the Section 32 statement
- communicate genuine offers to the seller
- organise the signing of the contract of sale.
Note: New laws were introduced in May this year to strengthen laws against underquoting in Victoria. Underquoting can occur when a property is advertised at a price that is less than the agent's estimated selling price, the seller's asking price, or a price already rejected by the seller. For more information on real estate pricing and advertising, view Understanding property prices.
Legal practitioners and conveyancers
Transferring land ownership from the seller to the buyer is called conveyancing. This is often done with the help of a legal practitioner or conveyancer.
Legal practitioners must have a current practising certificate and conveyancers must be licensed. They must both have professional indemnity insurance – this will cover any financial loss you suffer as a direct result of their information and advice.
We recommend you:
- choose a legal practitioner or conveyancer that you feel comfortable with and who meets your needs
- check references and make enquiries about the standard of their services
- get written quotes from several, and discuss all disbursements (administrative costs).
There are differences in what legal practitioners and conveyancers are allowed to do on behalf of a client.
A legal practitioner can:
- review and advise on the Section 32 statement and the contract of sale
- ensure that the transfer of title is done correctly
- advise on terms and conditions that need to be included in a contract to meet your needs
- advise how different types of title may affect ownership rights and responsibilities
- perform general legal work and provide legal advice.
To check if a legal practitioner has a current practising certificate, search the Register of legal practitioners and law practices - Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner.
A conveyancer can:
- undertake property conveyancing work
- carry out legal work or give legal advice regarding the transfer of title.
You can engage a conveyancer to:
- find and review property titles
- check the Section 32 statement
- advise on the terms and conditions in the contract of sale.
To find a conveyancer, search our Public register of licensed conveyancers.
You can do your own conveyancing, but if you do, you will not have a legal practitioner or conveyancer’s professional indemnity insurance if something goes wrong.
There is a lot at stake, so you must be confident of your ability. If you are not, use a conveyancer or legal practitioner.
Protection for clients of conveyancers and legal practitioners
If your legal practitioner or conveyancer misuses a deposit held in trust on your behalf, you can seek compensation from one of the following statutory compensation funds:
Section 32 statement
Before a property is sold, the seller must give you a ‘Section 32 statement’ as required by section 32 of the Sale of Land Act 1962. View Legislation we administer.
The Section 32 statement contains information about the property’s title, including:
- outgoings (for example, rates)
- a declaration if the property is located in a bushfire-prone area.
It does not include any information about:
- the condition of buildings
- whether they comply with building regulations
- the accuracy of measurements on the title.
The Section 32 statement is a legal document that must be factually accurate and complete. If it contains incorrect or insufficient information, you may be able to withdraw from the sale or take legal action.
The statement is:
- usually prepared by the seller’s legal practitioner or conveyancer
- signed by the seller
- attached to the contract of sale
- available to prospective buyers along with the contract of sale, usually before the sale or auction.
You should have the Section 32 statement checked by your own legal practitioner or conveyancer before you buy.
Contract of sale and GST
You can make an offer to buy a property by signing a contract of sale. The offer is accepted and the property is sold when the seller also signs the contract.
The contract of sale contains:
- details of the property
- names of the seller and buyer
- details of the seller's estate agent, if they have one
- details of the seller's and buyer's legal practitioner or conveyancer, if they have one
- the property price
- the deposit
- the balance owing at settlement
- any special conditions such as 'subject to finance'.
The contract must clearly specify whether the sale price includes or excludes the goods and services tax (GST) and, if it is included, the amount.
For information on special conditions that can be included in contracts for:
Generally, the GST only applies to the purchase of new homes. It does not apply to established homes unless the seller is registered for GST. You can check a seller’s GST status on Australian Business Register.