When you buy a property, you’ll need the services of a conveyancing property lawyer in Singapore to handle the entire process, which is transferring the legal ownership of a property. This must be done in a specific, formal manner. For instance, you can’t just verbally agree to exchange money for a property, as that is unlikely to be recognised by law.
This process—formalising your ownership over a property—requires the services of a law firm.
But while many people assume the bank gets to pick the firm in question, that isn’t necessarily true. You can in fact use a cheaper law firm of your choice. You just have to be careful to pick one that’s both affordable, and still good.
At the most basic level, the law firms are a crucial intermediary in buying properties. Without such an intermediary, the property transaction would be very risky—imagine if the seller decides not to hand over the title after you’ve paid the money, for example.
Conveyancing law firms help to mitigate such risks. They handle the money, title deeds, and so forth on behalf of their clients.
Your conveyancing firm also ensures the paperwork for your transaction is in order. For instance, it’s your law firm’s job to check if the seller actually has the right to dispose of the property. They have a duty to identify encumbrances, such as if the property has already been pledged to someone else through a trust.
The law firm will try to devise solutions to remove such encumbrances, if at all possible.
Your law firm also checks for any documentation that is disadvantageous to you. An Option to Purchase (OTP), for instance, can be worded in a way that’s unfair to buyers. The OTP may state a shorter than usual time for you to exercise it (e.g. one week instead of the usual 14 to 21 days), or phrased such that the seller can renege on the deal, with no penalty to themselves.
The law firm can warn you of such documents, and suggest revisions.
Read also: How do home loans work in Singapore?
You can find and pick your own law firm to handle conveyancing. You are not obliged to use the default law firm of your bank.
There are two types of law firms you can approach: full-service law firms, and those that specialise in conveyancing. Full-service firms handle many things besides property transactions, such as criminal law, contract law, and so forth.
Law firms that handle only conveyancing tend to be smaller, but may be more cost-effective.
The chief requirement is that the law firm must be on your bank’s board. Keep in mind that some law firms are on every bank’s board, whereas others may partner with only one particular bank.
Ideally, try to pick a law firm that is on the board of more than one bank. If you choose a law firm that’s used only by your bank, you could incur additional costs when refinancing your housing loan in Singapore, as another law firm must be paid to take over the conveyancing.
For conveyancing property law firms in Singapore, majority operate on a fixed fee basis. You don’t have to pay the lawyers by the hour; there is a single fixed price for handling your property transaction.
The lower range of conveyancing fees is around $2,000. This is for handling simple transactions, such as the purchase of a condominium unit fresh from the developer, where there are no likely encumbrances.
Average conveyancing fees are around $2,500. This is what most firms charge, and it’s the common rate for refinancing your home loan, purchasing a resale private property, or buying a commercial property.
At the high end, conveyancing fees can reach up to $3,000 or even more. This may be the price for engaging a “branded” law firm with a prestigious reputation. It may also be the price for more complex transactions, such as the purchase of multiple units, or the purchase of property overseas.
Conveyancing property law firms that charge less may be just as good, but there’s one drawback to note: such firms may be operating on volume to make up for their low price. When they have a large number of clients to deal with, they may have less time and fewer resources to devote to each one.
As such, using a cheaper conveyancing law firm can mean a slower response time from the lawyers. This can be costly if something does go wrong with the property purchase.
On the other hand, an expensive firm doesn’t always mean better results. If you’re simply buying a new unit from a reputable developer, for example, there’s unlikely to be any real difference in the quality of service. You may end up overpaying for the sake of having a brand-name law firm.
It’s best to take the middle road—pick a law firm that isn’t overpriced, but also not a cheap and overworked one that can’t give you the time you need.
Home loan specialists don’t just help you to find the best Singapore home loan rates. They have long-standing relationships with law firms as well as banks, and can help you find the best conveyancing lawyer fees for your property transaction.
In addition, home loan specialists may be able to get a price not offered to the general public. This is due to the number of clients that they bring to a conveyancing law firm in Singapore, which can translate into discounts.
The cool part is that the service is free to you, as home loan specialists are effectively paid by the banks.
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