Once the ink is dry on your purchase or sale agreement it’s time to sit back, relax and wait for your closing. Or is it? This would be the time to start looking for your real estate lawyer.
A lawyer is necessary for every real estate transaction to close whether it’s a purchase or a sale. Yes, there are hundreds of lawyers to to choose from, but it’s best to find a lawyer specializing in real estate law and someone you feel will do the best job for you. We’ve had personal experience with clients who have chosen to use a lawyer who doesn’t specialize in real estate law and it hasn’t been pretty! So make sure that you choose wisely or ask your realtor for trusted recommendations.
What does a Real Estate Lawyer do for you?
A real estate lawyer is there to protect your rights and interests. A lawyer will ensure that you’re buying what you’ve been told you’re buying. Once the lawyer has received the signed Agreement of Purchase & Sale, they’ll do a search on the property to ensure you are legally purchasing the precise property that was agreed upon and that there are no issues with the title or the land. Once title has been confirmed as clear, the lawyer will then order a Title Insurance Policy to protect any future interest you have on the property (see our post on title insurance here).
In addition to title issues, your lawyer will also check to make sure there are no outstanding taxes on the property before you gain ownership. This is crucial as unpaid taxes that are not detected before closing will make YOU liable! You’ll then be required to make the payment penalty fee as the new owner of the property!
In addition to registering your deed to the property your lawyer will also register your mortgage as they are forwarded your mortgage funds directly from your bank. All of your mortgage documentation will be completed with your lawyer as they not only represent you but your mortgage company as well. So while meeting with your lawyer, go ahead and ask any questions you may have forgotten to ask your mortgage broker!
Your lawyer will review your Agreement to ensure all terms and conditions are properly agreed upon before proceeding to avoid any legal issues that may arise later. They’ll then prepare your deed for the buyer’s lawyer to complete and register on closing.
If the buyer’s lawyer has found any issues or discrepancies with title, your lawyer will remedy any necessary issues in order to fix title before the closing date. Depending on what the issues are, there may be some extra costs involved in your legal fees. So if you’re aware of any issues that may arise, it is best to tell your lawyer ahead of time to avoid more costs and delays later.
Once the buyer’s lawyer has registered all of the necessary documents, your lawyer will then provide any documents and keys over to the buyer’s lawyer to complete the transaction.
Looking for some tips on how to find the right lawyer?
- Price Range. Lawyer fees can range on average anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000+ depending on the complexity of the file, the price of the property you’re purchasing and the services provided by the lawyer. Legal fees for selling a home will cost less than purchasing a home. Try to find a lawyer who is in your price range without compromising other wants and needs. We’d also recommend asking your lawyer if items like disbursements (i.e. office expenses, the title search, deed and mortgage registration, etc.) are included in their fee estimate to avoid an unpleasant surprise when the bill arrives!
- Experience. Finding someone who has more experience will give you the ease of knowing your file is being taking care of correctly and efficiently. In this chaotic time of packing and moving, the less stress for you the better. Yes, you can use a paralegal for most of the paperwork but lawyer’s are the only ones who can practice real estate law so they have to be involved with the file as well.
- Detail Oriented and Responsiveness. You want to find a lawyer who is confident in what they do and are motivated to do the best job they can for you. If you feel you’re not getting any answers or are being overlooked, it’s probably best to find another lawyer!
- Legally Practicing. Not all lawyers are legally allowed to practice law in Ontario. Some lawyers are punished by suspension or even disbarred if any unlawful activity has occurred in their practice. Always make sure your lawyer is legally practicing and is a member of the Law Society of Ontario. To find out visit http://www2.lsuc.on.ca/LawyerParalegalDirectory/loadSearchPage.do.