Q&As

Great Real Estate Escapes and Ethical Issues in Facilitating Unworthy Escapes with Tim O'Dwyer

Tuesday January 23, 2018

For more than 40 years Tim was a conveyancing solicitor, Justice of the Peace and Tax Agent. He is also Notary Public and has been a (Bond University and Law Society trained) Mediator. Tim holds a law degree from UQ and a Master of Arts degree from Griffith University. Nationally recognised as a "real estate watchdog" and consumer advocate, he has written widely on real estate and property law issues, regularly appears on Today Tonight and A Current Affair and is often interviewed about legal matters on radio and for newspaper and magazine articles. In 2012 he closed his Logan office, merged with Mitchells Solicitors of Moorooka and became a relaxed/happy part-time consultant solicitor (who is exempt from CPD obligations). Now 7/8th retired. He has gained and maintains a reputation not only as a "contract killer" (after rescues of ripped-off real estate consumers), but also as a "prince of real estate darkness" (after many wins for clients facing agents' commission claims). Meanwhile Tim has taught Welfare Law, Real Estate Law, Commercial Law and Justice of the Peace courses at TAFE colleges, Business/Professional Communications at QUT and Vendor & Purchaser at UQ. He has been a columnist for Australian Property Investor Magazine and The Australian Real Estate Blog. Year 2017, he published his well-regarded book "Real Estate Escapes" (www.realestateescapes.com.au). Tim O'Dwyer

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Tim recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.

You can find the full Q&A below.

What does your practice look like, and what are the types of matters you get excited about?

After 40 years as a suburban property lawyer, who developed over my final 10 years a satisfying (if not lucrative) niche in rescuing clients nation-wide from Queensland residential contracts, I now practise as a part-time consultant with Mitchells solicitors of Moorooka. This was a convenient consequence of my firm’s merger 5 years ago with Mitchells. While Mitchells essentially specializes in estate planning and estate litigation, my role (which I love) is to advise on conveyancing problems and challenges, and to field queries from old and prospective clients (and other law firms) experiencing difficulties with neighbour disputes, real estate agents’ commissions and property contract issues.

What really excites me is when buyers or sellers are looking for ways out of apparently done deals, and when sellers particularly are concerned about the validity of their agents’ commission claims. And what excites even more is to be able to facilitate positive and low-cost outcomes in these situations.

Finally, God bless QCAT…most of the time.

What are some of the key trends and developments in conveyancing you’re seeing in the Brisbane market?

  • Electronic conveyancing is not being widely embraced, if at all. Private non-agent sales may be increasing, although this may mean more agents claiming commissions as the “effective cause” of those sales.
  • In light of recent successful and financially profitable scams on law firms, conveyancing solicitors are becoming increasingly wary and more cautious of unseen prospective clients.
  • Real estate agents are (and always have been) persuading clients and customers to use favoured solicitors, inspectors and brokers, but the good news is that many agents are wisely suggesting that sellers secure building/pest reports when listing for sale.
  • Few buyers get legal advice before signing purchase contracts. The same with sellers and their agents’ listing authorities and sale contracts. Wonder why?
  • Nothing new in how incompetently many real estate agents prepare contracts, and how agent-friendly are their “standard” listing authorities.
  • Nothing new either in ridiculously (and dangerously) low conveyancing fees promoted by solicitors - and solicitors disguised as conveyancers.
  • Finally a significant number of conveyancing solicitors offer “fixed fee” conveyancing, but watch for the fine print on extras and increases.

Your presentation will cover “Great Real Estate Escapes and Ethical Issues in Facilitating Unworthy Escapes”. What are the key things that are tripping conveyancers and legal practitioners up in this areas and why is this this such a hot topic?

Fact of real estate life: buyers and sellers often change their minds. If you are not up to speed on the relevant legislation and contract law, you would be wise not to act precipitously or recklessly terminating a contract just on first appearances - or in giving in to the demands of an anxious client. Get it wrong, and both you and your client may pay dearly down the track. Be very careful if the client has been recommended to you by a regular-referring estate agent. While there are specialist contract-killing law firms, there are also those who specialize in (and have no qualms about) suing their negligent colleagues.

Are there any conveyancing reforms/developments or legislation on the horizon that you think conveyancer and legal practitioners should keep on their radar?

The Government announced in the 2017-18 Budget that from 1 July 2018, purchasers of new residential premises or new residential subdivisions would pay the GST on the purchase price directly to the ATO as part of the settlement.

You can hear more from Tim at the 2nd Annual Conveyancing Conference seminar, being held on Tuesday 20 March at the Mercure Hotel Brisbane, Brisbane.

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