Whether you’re buying, selling or refinancing your home, one of the most
important people you’ll work with is your real estate lawyer or notary. No matter
which process you’re going through, your lawyer’s overall responsibility is to
make sure your paperwork is filed, your rights are protected and your transaction
goes through. Here’s a breakdown of their other duties, and answers to some of
the most frequently asked questions about working with real estate lawyers.
What does a real estate lawyer do?
If you’re buying a home, you’ll want to start working with a real estate lawyer as
soon as you’re ready to sign the Offer to Purchase. From thereafter, your
lawyer’s job is to: conduct a title search, get title insurance in place, register the
home in your name, draw up a Statement of Adjustments, and facilitate the
financial transactions on closing day. Oh, and then they’ll give you the keys to your new home!
When you decide to sell your home, your real estate lawyer will do another title
search on your home to make sure there are no defects. Your lawyer will also
draft the deed of the home for the buyer, calculate any closing costs you have to
pay and draft a Statement of Adjustments for you. On closing day, they’ll facilitate
the financial transaction and hand you a cheque for what’s leftover, after paying
off anything you owed on your mortgage, your real estate agent’s fees, legal
Finally, if you’re refinancing, your real estate lawyer will conduct yet another title
search, to ensure it’s clear of defects; this protects both you and your lender.
After that, your lawyer will register the new mortgage amount and facilitate the
rest of the financial transaction. When you refinance, your lawyer drafts up a
Trust Ledger Statement instead of a Statement of Adjustments; it’s essentially
the same financial document, but your transaction is only with the bank – not
another buyer or seller.
At what point in the process do I contact a real estate lawyer?
For buyers and sellers, you’ll want to call your real estate lawyer as soon as
you’re ready to sign an Offer to Purchase. The offer is a legal document, so it’s
important to have a lawyer review it, because the consequences of breaking the
contract can be expensive. Your lawyer can explain all the legalese in plain
terms. You’ll need to see your lawyer again on closing day, to finish the
If you’re refinancing, you only need to see your real estate lawyer once, to sign
all the paperwork that is required for your new mortgage.
What should I look for in a real estate lawyer?
Here are a few things to look out for when choosing a real estate lawyer:
- Specialty in real estate law
- Competitive fees (low fees could mean they don’t have enough experience)
- Experience with the type of property you’re looking at
- Familiarity with the area
Don’t be afraid to ask lawyers about their experience, and even ask for
references from other clients.
How much does it cost to hire a real estate lawyer?
Legal fees depend on how complicated the purchase transaction is, as well as
the lawyer’s expertise. Most of the time, there will be a base fee that depends on
the type of home (detached, condo, etc.) and then you’ll pay for disbursements
(faxing, photocopying, etc.) and registration fees. The cost will also depend on
whether you’re buying, selling or refinancing. Expect to pay around $1,500 in
legal fees and disbursements when all is said and done.
What is the difference between legal fees and
Disbursements are essentially the lawyer’s expenses incurred by working with
you, and anything they have to pay ahead of time on your behalf; this can include
faxing, photocopying, carrier fees and any searches the lawyer has to complete
that come with a cost attached. Legal fees are what you pay for the lawyer’s time
(either a flat fee or per-hour rate).
What is the difference between title registration and title
Title registration is simply the process of changing the title of the home from the
seller’s name to yours. Title insurance, on the other hand, is intended to protect
you from liability should an undetected title defect be found. For instance, if there
is a violation of the municipal zoning bylaws, an existing work order, property
taxes in arrears or encroachments on adjoining property, this could affect your
title. Both title insurance fees and registration fees are paid for on closing day