When I’m buying a home, can I work with a lawyer instead of a real-estate professional?
While the law in Ontario says only a real-estate professional can trade in real estate on behalf of buyers and sellers, there is an exemption that also allows real-estate lawyers to trade in real estate if the lawyer is providing legal services and the trade in real estate is itself a legal service.
While there are a number of benefits to working with a real-estate agent, there are things you can expect when you work with a real-estate lawyer to buy or sell a home. Like all professionals, they will have different levels of experience and expertise.
For starters, a real-estate lawyer, like a real-estate professional, has a duty to ensure your best interests are protected during the course of a trade. For example, a real-estate lawyer can review the terms in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, conditions, waivers and related documents and take the necessary steps to have the contract legally completed.
Lawyers can review your offer on a home to determine whether or not the offer protects your rights and adjust it to better suit your needs. For example, if there are certain appliances or fixtures (refrigerators, washers/dryers, chandeliers) that you would like included with the sale, be sure to disclosure these to your lawyer.
Your lawyer can also perform other tasks, such as:
- Check the title to ensure the seller owns the property and is in a position to legally sell it
- Review condo status certificates
- Identify if there are liens or work orders on the property
- Take deposit funds and place them in their trust accounts pending closing
- Register the transfer on the provincial land titles registry
- Advise on zoning issues
- Arrange for the orderly transfer of funds and commission to the correct parties
- Provide the buyers with the keys on closing
Also consider hiring a real estate broker or salesperson to provide services such as scouting new listings, booking and handling showings, preparing a comparative market analysis and referring you to other services, such as contractors or home inspectors. These activities are typically not included in a real-estate lawyer’s services, though lawyers are free to offer any services they are insured for and qualified to provide. The Law Society of Upper Canada regulates lawyers in Ontario.
In addition, when you’re selling, real-estate boards require that anyone, including a lawyer, who advertises a home for sale on realtor.ca must be registered with RECO and be a paying member of a real-estate board or association.
Real-estate commissions and legal fees may vary, depending on who you work with. Some lawyers will charge a set fee for their work, while others will charge depending on the level of service that is provided. Be sure to talk to your real-estate lawyer ahead of time to determine what services they can provide and at what cost to you.Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.