What is a Settlement Day?

August 16, 2018
Moving House Hints and Tricks
August 27, 2019

What is a Settlement Day?

You’ve saved for your money, looked at dozens of properties, viewed the best prospects, and finally put in an offer. Accepted! Congratulations, you’re about to be the owner of a new home.

Just as you’re getting on top of the hundreds of little things you’ll need to do and organise prior to moving in, your settlement day arrives.

What is settlement?

Settlement makes official everything that’s been agreed to between the buyer and seller. All of the discussions, inspections, and other interactions that go on during the sale of a house have resulted in an agreement, and settlement day is when those intentions become reality. The documents are exchanged, the funds transferred, and the property officially changes hands.

How long does this take?

The process takes anywhere from 14 to 90 days to complete, mainly depending on how long it takes your bank to sign off on the mortgage. The average time varies from state to state too, so a word with your agent or banker should give you an idea of what to expect.

The final day of the process is what we call “settlement day.”

What do I need to prepare?

For many people, the hardest part of the settlement process is the initial negotiating to buy or sell the property, then the stress of waiting for the finance application to be approved. Once that approval occurs, you have some peace of mind that things are proceeding and can really think about the moving process.

For others, the packing up and cleaning your current home is the hardest part, disconnecting/connecting the utilities and sorting through legal papers. If you’ve never done this before, or it has been a long time, it can be daunting. A simple call to the provider of each service should put any anxiety to rest.

Is there any help available?

Here at Stenhouse Settlement Services, we will take care of the legal paperwork, make enquiries with the rating authorities about the property, and work with the bank/s to ensure everything behind the scenes is taken care of as soon as possible.

We will account to you advising how much money you need to pay and when, or if you are selling, obtain account numbers for payment of your proceeds.

Connections for internet, phone, gas and electricity are all personal services that require clients to arrange their own connections – but if you need any guidance we are here to help.

Final property inspections

Usually, settlement is already booked when the final inspection takes place and your real estate agent will discuss the logistics about key collection and handover.

We recommend the buyer complete the final inspection of the property within the 7 days before the due settlement day. You can do the inspection yourself or you can hire a professional to do it for you. A proper inspection will ensure that all conditions have been met, and that the house is in the same condition it was when you agreed to buy it.

Is it that simple?

In broad strokes, yes, but there are a lot of details that need to be taken care of, and each situation will have minor differences. Throughout the process, we will provide detailed information about everything, guide you through and be with you each step of the way.

Our role is to give you complete peace of mind about the process – confidence that you aren’t missing anything important that could complicate or jeopardise the deal.

What happens on settlement day?

Settlement day is exciting. It’s the day that you officially assume legal ownership of your home. Everything is usually ready for settlement before the day arrives, with the “settlement” being the formality of exchanging documents and money, to enable the property to be transferred to the new owner.

Settlements are completed either manually or electronically, depending on where you are. The manual registration system is being phased out where possible, and most settlements in Western Australia are now completed electronically.

Manual settlement system

With the manual registration system, the seller’s and buyer’s settlement representatives meet with the client’s lenders in the Perth CBD. They determine a location, date, and time for checking of documents and exchange of bank cheques. You do not attend this meeting, and are instead anxiously waiting our call advising the good news that settlement is completed so you can pop that champagne cork! Manual settlement usually takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Any funds being paid to you at settlement are paid by bank cheque and manually deposited into your account that same day. Unfortunately, it takes a few days to clear in your account before you can access the money.

Document lodgement with Landgate (the government land authority) happens shortly after settlement. Landgate takes about 4 weeks to register the buyer as the new owner of the property.

As documents are only checked at settlement, the system is prone to errors and risk, which is why the electronic system has been introduced.

Electronic settlement system

The new electronic settlement process is a streamlined system, which allows the legal documents to be checked by Landgate before money is disbursed. This greatly reduces errors and associated risk.

As soon as settlement is completed, ownership with Landgate is instantly registered in the buyer’s name and the money being paid is disbursed directly into client’s accounts as cleared funds.

It is much faster, safer and easier for all parties.

Just as for the manual settlement system, you do not attend this meeting. Settlement usually takes about 10 minutes to complete.

What can go wrong?

In most cases, nothing goes wrong – but that doesn’t mean problems can’t happen. Especially with manual settlements, errors can occur.

The most common error is signatures not matching on various documents. Since all parties want the deal to go through, and to go through on time, everybody pitches in to rectify the problem as soon as possible.

If the problem can’t be solved immediately, settlement can be pushed back to a later date, but in the rare event that a problem occurs, we will work with all parties to settle on the same day whenever possible.

So settlement is finished – what now?

The minute settlement is complete, we call you with the good news. We will also send you an email containing all of the documents you need for future record keeping – no risk of them getting lost in the stacks of boxes and papers during the moving process!

You will receive your keys from the real estate agent (or hand them over if you are the seller), and then only one job remains: setting up and settling in to your new home.

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