What many people don’t know about a real estate transaction is that you absolutely must hire a good lawyer. Because buying a property can be the single most expensive purchase you make in a lifetime, it is very important to hire a knowledgeable lawyer who will act on your behalf during the entire transaction.
But why do I need a lawyer to buy a home?
There is a lot more to a home transaction that you might not know or see. There are a number of services your lawyer provides in order to protect you and your new asset.
Here are just a few of the things your lawyer might look after during your real estate transaction that may help answer the question of “why do I need a lawyer to buy a home?”.
This is one of the most important factors in closing the transaction. According to GeoWarehouse, a title search is performed by a lawyer and is “a series of searches and documents that are reviewed by the lawyer to certify that title is clear.”
What does it take to ensure a title is clear? A comprehensive review of the following…
- Legal ownership of the property
- Legal description of the property
- Easements effecting the property
- Possible outstanding taxes or liens on the property
- And more…
Essentially, your lawyer’s job is to ensure that you’re getting the property free and clear of any encumbrances. It also ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property.
In order to obtain title insurance, your lawyer must first perform the title search. Title insurance helps to speed up the closing process. Off title searches are likely not necessary if you’re obtaining title insurance.
Unlike traditional insurance that protects you against future events, title insurance protects you against previous events. Things such as utility searches, building and zoning searches, a survey, etc. are not typically obtained if title insurance policy is obtained. This can save you thousands of dollars and also shortens the period required to close a transaction as obtaining all those searches can be very lengthy.
Registrations & Certificates
On top of the extensive legwork surrounding titles, your lawyer if also going to look into a host of other important documents you’ll need to complete a successful real estate transaction such as…
- Status certificates (condos only)
- Execution certificate
- Tax certificate
- Registration of deed
- Registration of mortgage
- Registration of covenants (if applicable)
- Utilities searches (if applicable)
Yes, your lawyer helps you with all of these, not your realtor! Because these are such important factors in your transaction, hiring a professional you can trust is imperative!
Determining land transfer tax
The land transfer tax is often something that is an after-thought when buying a home. Your lawyer will help determine what you owe for the tax based on the price of the home.
If you’re a first-time buyer in Ontario, you may be eligible for a first-time home buyer’s land transfer tax rebate of up to $4000.00. This rebate can help alleviate or even eliminate this cost of the land transfer tax depending on the cost of your new property.
Your lawyer will also help calculate whatever adjustments you might owe. An adjustment is basically what you would owe in the event that the previous owner paid ahead for certain things, such as tax, fuel/oil, etc. It essentially helps determine equitable and fair division of possible overlapping expenses.
For example: You purchase a property with a closing date in May. The previous owner paid the property taxes ahead of time for the first half of the year. Your lawyer would help calculate what you owe for the taxes for the month of June that were paid by the previous owner.
What your lawyer will need from you
In order to close your purchase, your lawyer will need the following information.
- Agreement of Purchase and Sale
- Name of Mortgage Lender
- Inspection Report
- Photo I.D.
- Property Insurance
- Closing Funds
Of course, this list is the basic things your lawyer needs. Your lawyer will let you know exactly what they need from you as you approach your closing date.
What your legal fees cover
It’s important to note that the legal fees accumulated through this process don’t entirely end up in your lawyer’s pocket. While your lawyer will charge you based on their individual billing, each of the items your lawyer searches for you comes with an individual cost. In fact, your actual legal fees may end up being lower than the cost of all the searches once you see the breakdown! For example, your title search can cost anywhere from $150.00-$500.00!
If you’re still a little big confused by the legal process around real estate, don’t worry! Your lawyer can help explain in detail what they’ll be doing for you. The important thing is that you hire a professional you can trust who has your best interest in mind.
Buying a home in Ottawa?
Hopefully this information provides a better understanding behind “why do I need a lawyer to buy a home?”. Remember, we’re not legal professionals, but we can certainly recommend a great lawyer if you’re buying a home in Ottawa. Being as informed as possible throughout the home buying process is important – and we can help!
More of a visual person? Share this handy info graphic!
If you have questions about the process of buying or selling a home (or both!), we’d love to answer them. Get in touch to get the ball rolling!