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What is a conveyancing lawyer & what are the fees in Singapore?

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As a property purchase is a huge financial investment, you must engage with a qualified conveyancing lawyer who can handle all the legal and administrative work involved in a property sale. Note that you can’t escape the conveyancing cost as it is a mandatory cost you will need to bear when buying or selling a home.

But what does a conveyancing lawyer do? How much will conveyancing cost me? What exactly goes into conveyancing fees? This article lists down and highlights all the services a conveyancing lawyer provides to help get you your home.

How much does a conveyancing lawyer cost?

For buying a resale condo, refinancing a housing loan or purchasing a commercial property, most law firms charge around $1,800 to $2,500 as conveyancing fees. For more complex private property transactions like a decoupling, it is recommended to engage with a highly reputed law firm. Such firms may charge conveyancing fees up to $5,000 or even more.

Sometimes, the lawyer may have to draft additional documents, for instance, if the terms & conditions deviate from the standard agent’s printed Option-to-Purchase forms. Preparing supplemental property documents may also incur extra charges in addition to the conveyancing fees.

While it is possible to carry out the conveyancing process yourself in some situations, it isn’t something we recommend. There have been many instances where homebuyers have tried to skimp on the conveyancing fees to save a few pennies and ended up paying a lot more money to rectify mistakes.

It is worth spending on picking a reputed law firm for conveyancing as it can help you avoid legal issues and assure peace of mind.

Check out this article “Conveyancing Property Lawyer Singapore: Can They Be Cheap and Good?” to learn why picking cheaper conveyance lawyers might not necessarily be better.

The conveyancing fees payable also varies based on the property type and value.

For a HDB property:

Resale PurchaseBTO PurchaseRefinance
$1,800 to $2,500$2,000 to $2,700$1,500 to $2,200

For buyers of a HDB flat, the HDB board acts as the buyer’s legal representative if the buyer is not using a bank loan to finance the flat purchase and HDB defines its own costs and fees. On the other hand, if the buyer is using a bank loan to make the HDB flat purchase, then the buyer is required to be represented by a private law firm for the conveyancing process.

For a private property:

Property Value/TypeProperties Under ConstructionResale PurchaseResale (landed)RefinanceExecutive Condo
Up to $2M$2,500 to $3,000$2,400 to $2,800$2,500 to $3,000$1,800 to $2,500$2,500 to $3,000
>$2M to $3M$2,500 to $3,200$2,500 to $3,000$2,800 to $3,300$2,000 to $2,800N.A.
>$3M to $5M$3,500 to $4,500$3,000 to $4,500$3,000 to $4,500$2,300 to $3,000N.A.
>$5M$4,000 and onwards$4,000 and onwards$4,000 and onwards$3,000 and onwardsN.A.

For private property buyers, the conveyancing process happens after your offer to purchase and a cheque for the option fee are accepted by the seller.

Note that it is important to clarify with the lawyer exactly what key components does the property conveyancing fees cover, such as CPF fees, GST, mortgage stamp duty, lawyer fees, title searches, caveat lodgement etc. It is suggested to pick a law firm that offers a fixed price service rather than a firm that charges on a per-service basis.

In Singapore, you will need a conveyancing lawyer when buying or selling a house as the legal documents to be registered with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) must be signed and duly certified by the buyer’s and seller’s lawyers.

A conveyancing lawyer assists property buyers through their preliminary research by conducting a more thorough title search. They check on any outstanding property tax on your new home and apportion such taxes between you and the seller.

A conveyancing lawyer acts as a pivotal intermediary to represent your best interests during communication with relevant parties, including the Housing & Development Board (HDB), Central Provident Fund (CPF) and Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).

If you don’t have the time to find a good law firm, simply ask your mortgage broker to help you maximise your savings on conveyancing while also ensuring a smooth sailing property purchase transaction.

What happens during the conveyancing process?

Conveyancing is not a simple buy-sell transaction. There are so many things that go into the conveyancing process. It is recommended for sellers and buyers to engage a lawyer for advice on how to proceed, assist with the necessary checks and liaise with other parties involved in the process. It is a good idea to know what is involved and how the conveyancing works.

Let’s break down and briefly explain the different stages of the conveyancing process for a typical resale purchase transaction.

1. Go through the contract

Once you have found the property you want to buy, acquired a home loan Approval-In Principal from a bank and your offer has been accepted by the seller, the lawyers from both parties will initiate negotiations.

If you decide to buy the property, your lawyer will then move to checking the terms and vetting the ‘option to purchase’ – or OTP in short, a binding legal contract with the seller that gives the buyer exclusive rights to purchase a property at an agreed price.

In exchange for the OTP, you are required to put down a 1% deposit (aka Option Fee) directly to the seller. You will forfeit this option fee to the seller if you choose to withdraw from the deal. There is a 14-day validity period starting from the date of issue to exercise the OTP but it can be negotiated.

During this period, your lawyer will provide you with a list of personal documents like photo ID, proof of address, etc. required for conveyancing. They will provide a clear timeline of the conveyancing process and a list of deadlines to watch out for.

2. Exercise the OTP

If the buyer chooses to proceed with the property transaction at the agreed price, they will need to exercise the OTP within the agreed time, usually 2-3 weeks. Your lawyer will lodge a caveat on the property to the Singapore Land Authority to indicate interest in the property.

They will also collect the rest of the property downpayment from you and transfer the sum into a ‘conveyancing account’ opened with the lawyer, which will then be paid to the seller. The other options include a conveyancing account of the Singapore Academy of Law or escrow accounts, which are jointly owned by buyer’s and seller’s lawyers.

Before entering into an OTP agreement, your lawyer is expected to carefully do their due diligence and conduct their own series of background checks to inspect the property you wish to purchase.

Apart from this, the buyer’s lawyer will also conduct necessary searches, such as a title search to ensure the legality of ownership holding, restrictive covenants on the property, any leftover encumbrances, and any red flags to stop the property purchase. The lawyer is involved at every step to get approval from the relevant authorities wherever necessary.

Once the OTP is exercised, the buyer gives a cheque for 4% of the purchase price to their lawyer.

3. Facilitate the mortgage process

If the seller of the property is still paying a mortgage for it, your lawyer will have to work together with the seller’s lawyer to release the property from the encumbrance of the seller’s mortgage. They will explain the mortgage documents and then get you to sign and accept. Your lawyer will also facilitate the passing over of the property’s title from the financing institution to the new owner, that is you.

Your property lawyer will also go through all mortgage documents to check the terms and conditions and advise you on your purchase. They will also coordinate with the bank and/or CPF Board to finance the property purchase and make sure that your required loan amount and CPF amounts are ready for drawdown for the property sale.

4. Work on the transfer of the property

Near the completion, the seller will grant ‘vacant possession’ of the property when it is in occupying condition. You do a final property inspection to ensure all the things are in place. Defects reported, if any, should be conveyed to the seller for rectification.

The conveyancing lawyer must assist you in the relevant payments and ensure the rest of the downpayment (purchase price minus the option fee deposit already made) is ready to be paid out to the seller.

Your lawyer will help to arrange for the payment of stamp duties, ABSD for example, within 14 days of the transaction and also inform you when the transfer of property is fully completed.

5. Further payment updates

If you are purchasing a property that is still under construction or not yet complete, your conveyancing lawyer is required to keep your property file for years and manage the progress payments on your behalf.

Your lawyer will need to keep track of payment deadlines and notifications. After completion of each stage of the property during construction, the lawyer will get a notice regarding the amount to be paid and the deadline.

Depending on who is supposed to pay that amount – you, the CPF Board and/or the bank – your property lawyer will get in touch and send the money to the developer.

6. Completion of the property purchase

If you are purchasing a resale or completed property, the most hectic day for your conveyancing lawyer is the day the purchase is complete.

Upon completion, your lawyer will get you the keys for your new home from the seller along with the property’s Certificate of Title as well as a transfer form indicating the new ownership. The law firm will help consolidate all documents and correspond with stakeholders in your transaction.

Your lawyer will calculate exactly how much money need to be transferred along with the balance downpayment to the seller.

Once all this is done, the seller’s lawyer will meet your lawyer to exchange the different cashier’s orders and cheques for the keys and other items. At this point, the property transaction is deemed legally complete and you can move into your new home.

7. Post-purchase work

While you can start planning for your housewarming party, your conveyancing lawyer’s work is not yet complete.

The conveyancing lawyer will then send out notifications to IRAS and other relevant authorities informing them about the new ownership in effect. This means that all taxes and charges such as property taxes, maintenance fees, etc. associated with the property will take effect from the date of completion.

Clearly, this entire process of conveyancing is no fun and games. It requires your lawyer to take care of your property file for a long time, sometimes even for years, while ensuring no deadlines are missed.

Final Thoughts

A conveyance lawyer is a big help in deciphering the legal and purchase process of the property, especially if you are unsure about how it goes and what you should do first or what is necessary.

With such a big financial commitment, you don’t want to run into the risk of making a big mistake that could undo everything or result in a costly error. A good conveyancing lawyer will look out for your interests and make sure they are protected.

Loan specialists and mortgage brokers can help you find trustworthy conveyance lawyers at an affordable rate, which might not be open to the general public.

Taking advantage of their long-standing relationships with law firms and banks, you can get discounts on conveyancing fees for your property transaction.

Note that this is technically a ‘free service’ as loan specialists are effectively paid by the banks. Get in touch with DollarBack Mortgage for any assistance on the best conveyancing fees in Singapore!

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