DO YOU NEED A SPECIALIZED REAL ESTATE LAWYER TO BUY A HOUSE?
The answer to this question is a definite YES!
Not only is it required to have a lawyer in order to close any real estate transaction in Ontario, it is also highly advisable that you have a lawyer specialized and experienced in your type of transaction. In our case, we wanted a lawyer specialized in new construction. After all, you are about to make one of the biggest investments of your life!
Real estate transactions can be quite complicated and so it is only logical that real estate is a very specialized area of the law. It may sound pretty straight forward to buy a house. But before you are allowed to get the keys and move in, there are quite a number steps to be taken to close on a purchase.
What does a lawyer actually do for a home buyer?
Part of the services and scope of a real estate lawyer include:
Review the Agreement of Purchase and Sale and all other documents associated with the transaction, e.g. builder / developer's terms and conditions, specifications, schedules and attachments;
Check if there are any listed claims against the property;
Ensure property taxes are up to date;
Make certain you have a clean and valid title upon closing;
Arrange for title insurance, if desired (always recommended!);
Calculate the land transfer tax and advise you on the taxes payable in order to close successfully;
Complete any mortgage documents that are to be registered against the property;
Close the transaction by ensuring all conditions are met, legal or financial (like your own payments to be made);
Exchange legal documents with the seller’s lawyer;
Provide you with the final closing documents.
You can see the process of actually closing on a purchase is more than just a signature on a purchase agreement and needs to be managed carefully. Ultimately, it is the real estate lawyer that guide you through this process.
Premium law firm with a downtown address or budget agency?
First, we feel it is important that whoever you hire is operating in the local market where your transaction is taking place and has experience in the type of property and transaction you are dealing with (e.g. buying a 100-year old house is different from buying a pre-construction condo).
We feel experience is a very decisive factor when it comes to our own selection for a lawyer in a custom home deal.
An experienced lawyer will understand the nuances of the legal documents and the complications that may arise in a complex real estate transaction. We have have seen this ourselves when it come to our custom home purchase. Even though we have both been through multiple transactions, there are aspects that are unique to each purchase which means potential issues can be missed!
It is your lawyer who will have your interests protected and guide you in the best direction. So it's a good idea to understand the knowledge and experience level of your lawyer.
Outside of experience, there are other aspects to consider as well, like the lawyer's reputation and your personal comfort level with the lawyer for example. It is often your personal connections who may refer a good lawyer they have dealt with in the past if you don't already have one yourself.
This doesn't mean that you need to hire the most expensive law firm in town, though. There is room for other options, with alternative legal services and agencies that offer a more affordable solution compared to the classic hourly billing scenario of many law firms. These law firms or agencies rely more on technology and often times offer a flat rate deal for your purchase. Highly focused on the transactional pieces of the purchases, these companies are often a good deal and certainly can be considered when you think you have a simple purchase at hand.
Keys to Success
There is certainly a large variety of law firms and services out in the market, especially in a large city with as many real estate transactions daily as Toronto. The ultimate selection is your personal choice and as always, we recommend going through your options with diligence before making your choice.
As the real estate lawyer is your guide through contract review, negotiation and consulting you all the way to the closing date, it is important to consider all aspects to the transaction and the interaction between you and the lawyer, i.e. local market involvement, experience, reputation and interpersonal skills.
Go online and ask your family, friends and other personal connections about their references and past real estate transactions. If possible, spend some time over the phone with the lawyer you are intending to engage to understand their perspective on your transaction and needs.
Remember that a custom home deal may have unique aspects and challenges from other transactions you have done before.
While we are not in a position to give you any legal advice, we certainly feel your dream home warrants to find someone who can give you great advice!