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Top 5 Tips to Find the Best Real Estate Lawyer

When you’re thinking about buying a home, your first impulse is probably to contact a real estate agent or a broker.  They can be helpful, but they probably don’t understand the complex set of laws which govern real estate transactions in your area.  That’s why you need to work with a competent real estate lawyer, one who will review the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, ensure that you’re in compliance with zoning laws, check for outstanding work orders, prepare mortgage documents, and more.

Choosing a lawyer

Of course, you want to find the best lawyer to work with, and that can be confusing.  If you’re looking for a skilled real estate lawyer in Oakville, Ontario, you could go the Yellow Pages.  Unfortunately, what you’ll find is a list of almost 250 lawyers, and scant information on how good any of them is.  So how do you find a lawyer you can trust?  Here are 5 tips to help you find the best lawyer for your real estate transaction:

Experience counts:  it’s important to hire a lawyer who specializes in real estate law, and that this is his or her principal area of practice.  You also need to know how many cases like yours the lawyer has handled and how many years he or she has been practicing real estate law.  Be sure your lawyer graduated from an accredited law school.

Get referrals:  get advice from friends and family members who have recently purchased a home.  Ask them what kind of experience they had with the real estate lawyer they employed and if they were satisfied.  Was the lawyer available to take their calls and meet with them when necessary?  Did they tell your friend upfront what their fees would be, and were there any billing surprises?  What did they like about the lawyer they used, and what problems, if any, cropped up?  If you’re working with a real estate agent, ask him or her to recommend good lawyers, and be sure to ask what they particularly like about those lawyers.

Check out their websites:  you can learn a lot from a law firm’s website, from both what’s there and what isn’t.  Does the website provide useful information?  The best firms will give you clear information about fees, provide answers to most frequently asked questions, and give you a list of the lawyers in their firm with years of experience and their principal area(s) of expertise and practice.

Schedule an initial consultation:  it’s important to meet with the lawyer face-to-face before you engage him or her.  This is your chance to get a “feel” for the lawyer to determine if the two of you will work well together.  You can also ask follow up questions to what you learned from their website.  Ask them how long they’ve been practicing, how many transactions similar to yours they typically handle each year, what specifically they will do for you and how much they will charge for those services.  You can also ask if they can give you the names of previous clients willing to serve as references.

Look for online reviews:  online reviews can be tricky, and some are more credible than others, but a good review site can be extremely helpful.  If you can find online reviews, be sure the website that publishes them is reputable.  The best sites, like ThreeBestRated, recommend the best businesses in Canada by type of business and city, and base reviews a wide spectrum of factors, from customer reviews to complaints to ratings and history.

To learn more about finding the best real estate lawyer for your home purchase, contact us today.

Choosing a Canadian real estate lawyer

How to hire a real estate lawyer:

Real estate agents can often recommend a good real estate lawyer. So might family or friends who have used lawyers. Ontario residents can access the Law Society Referral Service who will provide the name of a lawyer or paralegal for a recommendation. The Provincial Law Society may also publish an online directory of legal specialists, including real estate.

Lawyers who consider themselves as having a real estate specialty should spend at least 90 percent of their time on residential real estate cases. Many lawyers just handle the odd real estate case and may miss some of the important real estate subtleties.

Importance of finding a lawyer.

When two home buyers bought a new home in Ontario, they learned the value of choosing a real estate lawyer. A few days before the closing, the buyers received a call from the seller’s lawyer, saying that they immediately had to pay $1,100 in property taxes. The letter stated that the sellers had paid the final property taxes for the year. The buyers would have to reimburse them before the house sale could close.

It was a stressful moment until a knowledgeable family member called the city and discovered that the seller actually owed the city $500 in unpaid taxes. This meant that the sellers could not demand to be reimbursed for anything. The buyers hired a real estate lawyer who sent the sellers a letter demanding that the unpaid taxes be paid. The sellers paid and the sale went though.

Often Canadian real estate buyers don’t call a lawyer until the deal is done and signed. The call the lawyer afterwards to do a title search, register the deed, and handle the funds transfer. Actually, many found that hiring a real estate lawyer early in the buying process can save substantial money.

Getting a lawyer to review paperwork ahead of a purchase, the subtleties of language, can make a huge difference. Using the word “easement” instead of “encroachment” can make a large difference in compensatory payments. Making sure the purchase agreement makes the sale “conditional on getting the financing he [the buyer] wants,” not “conditional on financing” can save a lot of trouble later. The latter will make the buyer accept any financing the bank offers.

If the property being purchased is a condominium, home buyers will need a lawyer to help decipher the 30 to 50 page purchase agreement that can hide a whole range of important conditions that can make life difficult. Added charges like warranty protections against building defects or water meter and hydro installation can inflate the purchase price if not caught by a sharp legal eye.

The real estate law community in Canada.

Canadian real estate lawyers are unlikely to be basing their practices on foreclosures and short sells. The Canadian banking system is tightly controlled. Ninety percent of all mortgages are provided by one of the five major Canadian banks. Canadian banks do not offer thirty year fixed mortgages. Mortgage rates will adjust every five years in Canada. In Canada, a real down payment is necessary for the purchase of a house and credit demands are stiffer than the U.S..

When choosing a real estate lawyer, consider the law firms they work in. Does the firm appear to have the profile of expertise that can help your individual case? Real estate lawyers who tend to represent landlords, contractors, developers, banks, and financial institutions might not be able to fairly represent a borrower or a consumer. Look for a list of representative cases to see if the lawyer’s clients have similar interests to your own.

Oakville Real Estate Law operates almost exclusively in the field of Residential Real Estate Law, very aware of the stresses involved in the purchase and sale of your home.  Please contact us to learn more.

Reach Your Ideal Property Goals with a Real Estate Lawyer

Buying or selling a home successfully requires perseverance, diligence, knowledge and careful attention to the law.  It requires a deep understanding of the market as well as the process to get it done.  In lieu of this knowledge, buyers and sellers can hire a top flight legal team to execute the deal to perfection.

Real estate transactions have to keep in mind several important issues.  One of the most important is the transfer of title.  Lawyers must make sure that their client properly transfers or receives title at the appropriate time.  This is the key to the entire sale.  The transfer is usually conditioned upon all of the money being placed in an escrow account, or at least obtaining the money and the financing for the property.  The lawyer must check that everything is in order before allowing the transaction to proceed.

The lawyer must also make sure that all taxes and fees are paid to the authorities.  Every transaction has associated fees and if they are not logged properly, the transaction could be considered invalid.  That might create a huge loss of capital.  The major fees include the land transfer tax, the title insurance, the broker fees and the legal fees.

The Ontario real estate market has been hot in recent years as foreign buyers enter the market.  In addition, with the weak Canadian Dollar, local companies are able to sell goods abroad which has spurred growth and innovation.  That has helped to increase jobs and incomes which always helps home price values.

However, without proper legal help, taking advantage of the rising prices might end up in shattered dreams.  Good lawyers help to negotiate important contractual terms as well.  For example, some developers want to extend the construction dates after you have already paid your deposit.  While it is legal to extend for up to 120 days, depending on the contract you may have legal options.

An experienced real estate lawyer will also have experience with construction, building materials and adjustments.  They will understand the obligations to provide an adequate environment with heating, water and other facilities.  They will also understand the required building adjustments.  These adjustments after purchase can actually add to the price between $2,000 and $10,000.

Real estate investors require a high quality and ongoing relationship with lawyers.  That is because they are negotiating contracts constantly and trying to squeeze every advantage possible.  A real estate lawyer can help identify areas where the builder or seller have overlooked.  They also have a wide net of other clients that can provide good deals.

For example, perhaps a bankruptcy lawyer provides a referral that one of their clients is in distress.  A real estate lawyer can bring the information to the attention of an astute investor that can place a bid 15% or 20% under market value.  The investor might put in provisions such as an “all cash closing” or “15 day close” rather than 30 or 90 day close that would allow the seller quicker access to cash.

In addition, the lawyer could put in provisions that allow for the investor to get some of their cash back if there are maintenance or building improvements that were not disclosed (and there always are).  The investor can then flip the property quickly to make up the huge difference in price, all because they had a good real estate lawyer.

Oakville Real Estate Law is a leader in helping buyers and sellers achieve their goals.  The firm is led by Robert Rose who has decades of experience and has helped to close over 12,000 real estate deals.  He is one of the most skilled and professional residential real estate lawyers in the country.  For more information, please contact us.

How much is Land Transfer tax?

Land Transfer tax is calculated as a percentage of the purchase price. At present the tax is .5% on the first $55,000.00, 1% from $55,000.00 to $250,000.00, 1.5% from $250,000.00 to $400,000.00 and 2% above $400,000.00 ie tax on $200,000.00 is $1,725.00. The City of Toronto has been given taxing powers and as such the Land Transfer Tax for properties in the City of Toronto is doubled.

First time buyers of new houses are entitled to a rebate of Land Transfer Tax of up to $2,000.00. This means no tax is payable on houses of $227,500.00.

Why do I need a Lawyer for a real estate deal?

When you are first contemplating the purchase of a home, you should retain a lawyer to guide you through the transaction. The lawyer will be pleased to answer any questions you may have with regard to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, mortgage options and costs to be expected. In most cases, the advice provided prior to signing the Agreement of Purchase and Sale is considered to be part of the Lawyer’s tasks in the purchase of real estate and the Lawyer would not charge extra for this advice.

After the Agreement of Purchase and Sale has been signed, get the Agreement to your Lawyer as quickly as possible. The Lawyer will then commence the various searches he does on your behalf. These searches include contacting the Municipality’s Building and Zoning Department to confirm if the property complies with all applicable zoning by-laws and whether or not there are work orders against the property. In order to confirm that the vendor is leaving no unpaid bills, the Lawyer will obtain Certificates from the Municipality’s Tax, Water, Hydro and Gas Departments. Your Lawyer will then conduct a search of title to determine if the vendor owns the property. The agreement of purchase and sale provides that these searches should be completed within a predetermined time. It is important as a purchaser that your agreement give your solicitor sufficient time to complete these searches.

As the transaction moves towards closing, the Bank will forward instructions to the lawyer so he can prepare the mortgage documentation.

One or two days prior to closing you will be asked to attend in your lawyer’s office to execute all documents and bring in the balance of the funds required to close your deal. These funds will include the balance of the down-payment together with the closing costs.