I’m savvy in real estate. I’ve bought and sold three homes over the past six years and know what I’m doing. Do I really need a lawyer?

If you are familiar with this column, you have likely noticed that I regularly advocate the value that lawyers bring to buyers and sellers during their real estate transactions. Regardless of how comfortable or how many properties a person has purchased or sold, each transaction is unique and should be approached as such. You never know when a transaction could go sideways and having an experienced lawyer on your team can save everyone a world of heart – and head – ache.

Whichever side of a transaction you’re on, a lawyer can provide invaluable service by performing due diligence for the buyer or seller, and by taking the necessary steps to complete the transaction, including transferring funds and registering the transfer and mortgage documents on title.

For buyers, enlisting the services of a real estate lawyer early in the process to provide legal expertise and assist in contract negotiations is wise. Some of the services provided to buyers include:

    • Legal review of the purchase agreement and related documentation and assistance in negotiations prior to signature
    • Validating and executing a title search on the property; checking for such things as outstanding work orders or permits and validating things like easements and rights-of-way that may affect the property
    • Ensuring that the property is clear of claims, liens, or outstanding debts – and helping to address issues should they arise
    • Providing legal expertise regarding standard closing costs like Land Transfer and legal fees
    • Reviewing additional charges that may be captured in other transaction documents and contracts like school levies or water or hydro meter installation for a new build
    • Explaining the benefits of title insurance and arranging for it on behalf of the buyer
    • Confirming that all legal and financial matters are resolved by closing
    • Facilitating the exchange of keys, legal documents, and title ownership with the seller’s lawyer in closing the transaction

For a seller, a lawyer’s services can protect them from costly errors and oversights associated with the property. While a complete list of the services to be provided should be agreed upon and documented at the time of hire, below are some examples.

    • Legal review of the purchase agreement; this includes reviewing the validity and risk associated with clauses and conditions
    • Confirmation of the Statement of Adjustments
    • Identification verification in compliance with Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre Of Canada (FINTRAC)
    • Confirmation of the mortgage amount and any outstanding lines of credit, debts or penalties that will be owing at the time of closing
    • Mediation and resolution support should issues arise
    • Confirmation that all legal and financial matters are resolved by closing
    • Facilitation of key exchange, transfer of legal documents and title ownership in closing the transaction
    • Disbursement of the proceeds from the sale – including the deposit – which may include paying off outstanding mortgages and paying the real estate brokerage commission

It is important to note that only lawyers who are insured by LawPRO®, the Lawyer’ Professional Indemnity Company, to practice real estate law may offer legal services for real estate transactions to buyers and sellers in Ontario.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email information@reco.on.ca.

 

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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.

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