Merry Christmas from Spot On Conveyancing

Spot On Conveyancing wishes you a Merry Christmas and an outstanding year in 2018

At Spot On, we are proud to offer first-rate conveyancing services to people across a broad swathe of south-east Queensland. This year, we saw growth that meant we helped a record number of clients with buying and selling property of all kinds from the New South Wales border along the Gold Coast and Logan, west to Ipswich and all the way through Brisbane and north to Hervey Bay. We are proud of the diversity of our clients, and of our consistent record in client satisfaction.

A prosperous – and home-owning – year for all in 2018

In case you missed our good news story for first home buyers, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made an election promise to extend the $20,000 Queensland First Home Owners’ Grant by six months until midnight of 30 June 2018 for contracts on off-the-plan or newly constructed dwellings. At the time of writing, the campaign promise had yet to be enacted, but we feel confident the re-elected Labor state government will be keen to honour their pledge. We will keep you abreast of developments in the new year.

Priority notices and energy efficiency

Other news we kept you in the loop about this year included changes to the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010 (Cth) (the BEED Act); and the Land and Other Legislation Act 2016 (the LOLA Act).

In line with changing community and industry standards, the BEED Act now requires most sellers and lessors of offices larger than 1000m2 to obtain a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC). The program aims to improve the energy efficiency of Australia’s commercial buildings and to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BEECs are issued by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and Spot On Conveyancing can help you with enquiries about obtaining one or any of your other new obligations under the BEED Act.

A separate development in conveyancing news this year were the changes to the LOLA Act which became law on 30 March. From 1 January 2018, the current Queensland Settlement Notices will be replaced by Priority Notices. The function of the new notices remains similar but with broader application, affecting buyers and sellers. Please contact us for expert advice in how the changes may affect you.

Staying safe and scam-wise

Less good news was the reach of sophisticated scams into the realm of conveyancing. Interstate incidents were reported of scammers hacking emails to misrepresent themselves to clients as their conveyancer and directing the client to deposit large sums of money into bogus accounts.

Spot On Conveyancing would like to take the opportunity to warn clients never to act on email requests for money from us or from anyone, and to report such suspicious activity immediately.

We wish you and your families a safe and happy holiday season, and a peaceful and prosperous year in 2018.

Fixed-price conveyancing

Buying a home can be daunting, unfortunately. Making a good choice of conveyancer is one way to take some of the stress out of what should be a major life event to celebrate.

Spot On Conveyancers are fixed-price conveyancers, which means, in short, that you can rest easy knowing that the costs will be fixed at the outset and fully transparent, with no nasty surprises in store along the way.

Our value-for-money all-inclusive price covers all of the advice and services you will need along the journey of buying or selling your property. We also give you what you need when you need it, with 24/7 availability guaranteed. This is critical with sales and purchases of property, as transactions can move very quickly, and acting to secure a favourable transaction can call for services or advice at any time of the day or night.

Spot On Conveyancing is fully in your corner.

Buying or selling property: Knowing your costs

By offering a fixed price for all your conveyancing needs, Spot On Conveyancing helps you to understand your expenses when you are buying or selling.

Many separate costs are incurred when buying or selling, apart from just the asking price of the property, and it is important to fully understand them from the outset.

The many costs can include, before you buy:

  • stamp duty (now known as transfer duty)
  • valuation
  • inspections of various kinds
  • real estate agent fees
  • fees for searches, such as title searches
  • fees for legal matters outside conveyancing

As you buy:

  • bank or mortgage fees
  • home and contents insurance
  • the costs of relocating and connecting utilities and the installing of alarms

And after the sale:

  • council rates
  • maintenance
  • body corporate fees.

Sellers also face a range of expenses that they will do well to calculate carefully preferably before they sell, or as soon as possible in the process.

Fixed-price conveyancing: our service commitment to buyers and sellers

At Spot On Conveyancing, we know what it is like for sellers and buyers, which is why it is so important to us that we offer our clients fixed-price conveyancing. We are here to help you get the most value out of the experience of buying or selling property

Fixed-price conveyancing serves you best, and serving you as well as possible is simply our business.

Contact us today for an obligation-free discussion about how we can help you with conveyancing and other legal services for buying or selling property.

Queensland First Home Owners’ Grant

Good news for first home buyers in Queensland

The great Australian dream of owning your own home gained a boost in the recent Queensland state election, with an extension promised for the popular Queensland First Home Owners’ Grant.

The Queensland First Home Owners’ Grant was designed to help young people get their foot in the property door with a generous one-off payment of $20,000. A considerable sum, it is likely for many of the eligible to be more than half the usual 10% required by lenders for a deposit.

Prospective applicants for the grant were being advised to act quickly, however. The final call for those eligible with a contract to purchase or build an off-the-plan or newly constructed home valued under $750,000 to be signed before midnight on 31 December 2017.

But during the state election campaign, on 19 November 2017, the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a promise of an extension to the grant until midnight on 30 June 2018. While this is good news that will be welcomed by many, it is important to note that it has not yet been enacted by the government. However, as a key campaign promise, it does seems safe to say that the returning Labor state government will be very keen to keep it.

First Home Owners’ Grant: Are you eligible?

The grant is strategically designed to not only help young people into home ownership, but also to generate activity and employment in the building industries. As such, it is available only for off-the-plan or newly constructed homes, and not for existing properties.

First home buyers are urged to take advantage of it for new homes and not to wait – doubtlessly in vain – for it to be extended to existing properties. Making it available for existing homes would be an expensive and untargeted spend of government money, and effectively provide a disincentive for first home buyers – and industry – to build new homes.

Other eligibility criteria for the First Home Owners’ Grant:

  • the property must be worth a maximum of $750,000
  • you or your partner/co-applicant must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • you or your partner/co-applicant must not have previously owned property in Australia
  • you and your partner/co-applicant be at least 18 years of age.

In more good news, other incentives do exist for those not taking the option of off-the-plan or newly constructed homes.

If you are buying an established home, for example, you may be eligible for the Queensland First Home Buyers Stamp Duty Rebate of up to $8750.

And if you are buying vacant land, you may be eligible for a Stamp Duty Rebate of up to $7175.

Contact Spot On Conveyancing today for an obligation-free discussion about how we can help you make the transition to owning property.

Commercial Building Disclosure Program

Energy Efficiency need-to-knows for commercial owners and lessors

Since 1 July 2017 more commercial buildings are now required to disclose energy fficiency before the building goes on the market for sale, lease or sublease.

The Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) Program now requires most sellers and lessors of office space of greater than 1000m2 to obtain a Building Energy Efficiency Certificate (BEEC). Previously, only buildings of 1000m2 or more were under the mandatory disclosure threshold. BEECs must also now be publicly available on the Building Energy Efficiency Register.

This change is due to section 12 of the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act 2010 (Cth) (the BEED Act), which sets out the process for requesting a BEEC. Owners and lessors must provide a current, valid BEEC to potential buyers or lessors free of charge as early as possible in the transaction process or on request.

Why BEECs?

The CBD Program aims to improve the energy efficiency of Australia’s commercial buildings and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BEECs create a more informed market, with building owners encouraged toward energy efficiency and green buildings.

BEECs provide consistent, meaningful and comparable information about the energy efficiency performance of individual buildings, making it easier for prospective buyers and tenants to choose more energy-efficient spaces.

Applying for a BEEC

The BEECs are issued by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Only accredited CBD assessors can apply for BEECs on behalf of building owners or lessors. The Australian Government provides a register of CBD assessors accredited under the Act. Penalties apply for failing to comply with your obligations under the BEED Act.

A BEEC has two parts:

  1. National Australian Built Environment Rating System “NABERS”
  2. Tenancy Lighting Assessment “TLA”.

Once a NABERS star rating and a TLA have been obtained, the CBD Accredited Assessor can apply for a BEEC on your behalf. The NABERS star rating must be used in all advertising material for the sale, lease or sublease of the building or space.

Owners and lessors are not required to continuously maintain a valid BEEC. However, the information in a BEEC can cover a significant period (such as electricity bills over a year, and logs for after-hours air conditioning).

You can check if your building is affected by the CBD Program here. Information about buildings that may not be affected due to exceptions and exemptions is available here.

Please contact us today if you need assistance in obtaining a BEEC for your commercial property, or have any questions about the CBD Program and how it may affect you.

Conveyancing clients beware – Conveyancing targeted by cybercriminals

Scammers posing as conveyancers have recently swindled clients in South Australia and Western Australia, with Queensland property buyers also warned to be alert.

In the three South Australian and Western Australian cases, property buyers were targeted by fraudsters posing as their conveyancers. In each incident, clients were sent bogus emails with bank account details and asked to deposit money.

The Adelaide Advertiser has reported that in one case, quick action meant that the National Australia Bank was able to cancel the transaction and retrieve the victim’s money. However, other victims may not be so lucky, and could potentially lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Authorities continue to warn clients of conveyancing firms Australia-wide about email scams.

Although many people know to be wary of sharing personal information on public platforms like Facebook, in these cases it appears that the clients’ private emails discussing their imminent property purchases were intercepted by the fraudsters.

Spot On Conveyancing continues and updates its previous warning to clients about receiving emails purportedly from us asking you to deposit money into a bank account to finalise your property deal.

Cyberscam warnings remain current

The sophisticated real estate cyberscam has prompted strong warnings from Consumer Protection.

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers has also distributed advice to its members and is working with insurers. However, the institute’s South Australian CEO Rebecca Hayes emphasises that consumers also need to be alert and take responsibility for their own cybersafety.

Spot On Conveyancing repeats our advice to clients to be wary of sharing personal information online, even by email, about your intentions to purchase property, and to always check banking or email details in person with your settlement agency. Please contact us immediately if you receive such an email.

To report a cyber attack or loss to a scam, contact Consumer and Business Services on 131 882.

Priority Notices replacing Settlement Notices on 1 January 2018

Spot On Conveyancing alerts buyers and sellers in Queensland that Priority Notices will replace the current Queensland Settlement Notices from 1 January 2018. This is in line with the Land and Other Legislation Act 2016 (LOLA Act 2016), which became law on 30 March 2017.

There will be no transition period. This means that the Titles Registry must have accepted your Settlement Notice by close of business on Friday 22 December 2017. Titles Registry cannot accept a Settlement Notice from 1 January 2018 even if it was executed before that date.

If you deposit your Form 23 – Settlement Notice by Friday 22 December 2017 it will continue to have effect until it lapses or is withdrawn, removed or cancelled.

But from 1 January 2018, it is a Priority Notice Form that must be used instead.

Both forms are available for download from the Queensland Government Business Queensland website.

Automated Titling System

Settlement notices are recorded on the Automated Titling System to provide protection of a transferee’s interests under a contract over a title. They also offer protection to a potential mortgagee of such a purchaser against lodgement of interests not otherwise specified between the time of settlement of the contract and lodgement of the document in the Titles Registry.

The LOLA Act, which became law earlier this year, amended the Land Title Act 1994 (Qld) and Land Act 1994 (Qld) to provide for Priority Notices to replace Settlement Notices, plus other minor amendments.

The main functions of the new Priority Notice will remain fundamentally the same as Settlement Notices. There will, however, be some minor changes. These include that Priority Notices will encompass a wider range of instruments and transactions – they are not limited like Settlement Notices to just a transferor/transferee transaction.

Priority Notices will last for 60 days, like Settlement Notices, and can also be extended by a further 30 days to a maximum of 90 days.

Settlement Notices were only able to be lodged once. But there is now no explicit restriction on lodging more than one Priority Notice after the lapsing, withdrawal or cancellation of the first Priority Notice.

Future transactions should take into account the additional protections afforded by Priority Notices, and how these may affect the property in question.

Spot On Conveyancing: expert legal guidance

Other minor changes have been introduced by the LOLA Act that relate to how a person may be registered as trustee of an interest in a lot, registering beneficiaries, and lapsing of caveats, among other things.

Please contact us today if you have any questions or concerns about how the legislative changes may affect you.

Energy Price Rises

Energy prices are rarely out of the news these days, and prices rose again in Queensland on 1 July. Spot On Conveyancing has a few tips to getting value for money and avoiding bill shock this summer.

1. Audit your bills

In Queensland householders can choose who to buy your gas and electricity from. But with that freedom comes the necessity of being well-informed enough to make wise choices.

Unfortunately, the energy providers can employ pushy sales tactics. Don’t sign anything until you have had the time to research your options, and take advantage of the compulsory cooling off period. If in doubt contact the Australian Energy Regulator.

The plethora of contracts in the market can be difficult to compare. Make use of comparison services such as Compare the Market, and be prepared to set aside some time to make the best decision. Good decisions can be well worth your while.

You’ll find that some providers offer discounts, but be sure to read the fine print, as these may only apply under certain circumstances, such as early payment, and leave you comparatively worse off otherwise.

2. Reduce your usage

Switch appliances off at the wall when you are not using them. Energy Australia has found that appliances on standby account for up to 10% of your power bill. Try making it easier for yourself by using power boards so you only have to turn off one switch for several appliances. Try also making a night-time routine of going around your home to switch off everything you don’t need overnight.

Choose the cold water cycle and/or the economy or quick cycle to wash your clothes. Also try the economy cycle on your dishwasher.

3. Pay on time

Penalties for late payment can be high, especially if you get disconnected. If you are struggling to meet your bill, be sure to contact your provider before the bill due date to make an arrangement with them.

Another good strategy to manage large bills is to set up periodic direct debits from your bank account that you can synch to your payday. These can be adjusted to your usage, and some providers even offer discounts for selecting this option.

Stop your power bills from going through the roof this summer. Take control – and stay cool.

Scammers Target Conveyancing

Scammers target property buyers and conveyancers

Property buyers should be sure to verify all bank account and email information before transferring any money.

Buyers in South Australia and Western Australia have recently been targeted by fraudsters posing as conveyancers. In each case, the people received bogus emails purporting to be from their settlement agency asking them to deposit money into a bank account to finalise the transaction on their purchase of property.

It is the first time authorities have seen scammers posing as conveyancers. The scam has prompted warnings from Consumer Protection to be wary of sharing personal information by email or otherwise online, and to always check banking or email details in person with your settlement agency.

Cybersafety paramount

“It appears that the scammers have hacked into somebody’s email account and in this case the person clearly had said that they were buying a house,” said Consumer Protection director of property industries, Stephen Meagher, about the Western Australian incident.

“One thing we always say is that on your Facebook and [on the internet], don’t tell people you’re buying a house or selling a house or going on holidays and things like that,” he said. “You just don’t want stuff out in the public domain so people know your private business.”

Conveyancers issue scam warning

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers has warned that the scam has the potential to cause a property settlement to become void if the funds can’t be met within the settlement period. Most people, of course, do not have the wherewithal to absorb losses on the scale of these email scams, which are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Institute’s South Australian CEO Rebecca Hayes says that although conveyancers and real estate agencies have been warned about the scam and how to take protective steps, consumers must also be aware of the risks and take the advice of insurers and authorities:

“It’s really important that consumers pick up the phone and check those details and check that the email is a legitimate email prior to actually transferring any money.”

Spot On Conveyancing strongly advises you to contact us immediately if you receive any email requesting you to pay money to us.

Link To Article On ABC

Foreign resident capital gains withholding 2017

The Australian Government made changes on 9 May 2017 to the withholding rate and threshold for the foreign resident capital gains withholding (FRCGW). The changes came into effect for all contracts entered into on or after 1 July 2017.

What is the foreign resident capital gains withholding?

The initial FRCGW scheme was introduced on 1 July 2016. It applied when sellers are foreign residents, and required buyers of property worth $2 million or more to withhold 10% of the purchase price, paying that sum to the ATO after settlement.

An exception to the withholding tax is when the seller provides the buyer with a Clearance Certificate. This is issued by the ATO and confirms that the seller is an Australian resident and that the buyer is therefore not required to withhold the payment.

What are the new capital gains tax rate and threshold?

The new changes will capture a much larger portion of the Australian property market.

The threshold of $2 million has been lowered to $750,000 and the rate of withholding tax has been increased to 12.5% of the purchase price.

The same exception applies when an Australian seller gives the buyer a Clearance Certificate.

Capital gains withholding: the consequences of non-compliance

If you are the buyer and you do not receive a Clearance Certificate from a foreign seller and fail to pay 12.5% of the purchase price to the ATO, you will become personally liable for that amount as a penalty.

What Spot On can do for you

When Spot On Conveyancing is acting on behalf of the seller, we will ensure that we identify all contracts over $750,000 and that sellers meet all requirements. We will make the application for the Clearance Certificate on behalf of Australian sellers. (Application forms are available on the ATO website.)

When we are acting on behalf of the buyer, we will ensure that the buyer obtains a Clearance Certificate before settlement on the property, wherever a Clearance Certificate is applicable.

DIY Conveyancing: Not such a great idea after all

DIY Conveyancing

DIY conveyancing kits and forms are readily available online. If you’ve found Spot On’s site through an online search, it’s likely you encountered ads and articles about DIY conveyancing along the way of your cyber travels.

You might also have been tempted by the thought of saving money. But it would surely be a a false economy to place your most valuable asset at risk. DIY conveyancing carries high, and to most of us, unacceptable risks.

Professional Conveyancing lawyers like at Spot On have years of training and experience. The services that qualified lawyers provide are not inexpensive, but they do represent good value. Using a cookie-cutter DIY kit could leave you exposed to unacceptable risk to do with what is probably your most valuable asset.

You risk your sale falling through if you are a seller and your purchase being a dud if you are a buyer. Go it alone and you have no support if and when things go wrong.

Property law and the requirements for conveyancing are constantly changing, and it is our business to keep abreast of these changing conditions. You may not know when your DIY Kit was created and what myriad factors you need to be across when you attempt to do your own conveyancing.

We are accustomed to dealing with the range of professionals whose work intersects with our own, such as mortgage brokers, property inspectors, real estate agents and banking professionals.

Having a professional conveyancing lawyer handle your property transactions will also save you stress. We not only have the skills, qualifications and experience to do the job effectively and safely, we also have record-keeping systems in place. With DIY conveyancing, you risk overwhelming yourself with paperwork and record-keeping.

DIY conveyancing could really only be a recommended choice if you absolutely cannot afford legal services. Thankfully, this rarely arises as sellers can pay from the proceeds of the sale and buyers can pay by making the conveyancing costs part of the total price of purchase.

Don’t place your most valuable asset at risk. Contact us today for professional services you can trust.