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Overall, your lawyer’s role is to help you get what you bargain for, at the price you agree to pay, on the terms you understand. A real estate lawyer can also help by:
- ensuring that you fully understand the purchase contract;
- examining the title to the property to confirm that there are no covenants, easements, etc. which may restrict your use of the property;
- making sure the necessary legal documents are properly prepared and registered;
- explaining the terms of your mortgage or other financing arrangements so you clearly understand the responsibility you are accepting;
- verifying that the financial adjustments between buyer and seller are properly computed and that the transaction is properly concluded; and
- seeing that you receive valid registered ownership of the new property subject only to liabilities you agree to.
A realtor can help you with most of these points, but it is a good idea to understand them beforehand.
- save any advertisements and get a copy of the real estate listing, if there is one, in case there is a dispute at any later time.
- check the house for structural defects. If you can, you should hire a home inspection expert.
- find out if there are any zoning or building restrictions.
- check the cost of property taxes and utilities.
- make your offer “subject to” conditions you need for your protection. For example, you could make the offer subject to acceptable financing being arranged, lawyer’s approval or a satisfactory home inspection.
- put a time limit on your offer.
- get estimates from the realtor, your lender or mortgage broker and your lawyer of the costs you will have to pay on closing in addition to the purchase price.
- make sure any moveable items such as appliances, floor coverings, etc. are specifically mentioned in the offer.
These are the main expenses you can expect:
- legal fees and disbursements (including transfer and mortgage registration fees) and sometimes GST on the price;
- property tax adjustments (a portion of the year’s property taxes will be credited to the seller if the seller has already paid them, or credited to the buyer if the buyer has to pay them);
- home/property insurance for fire and other hazards;
- late interest charges (if your lawyer cannot advance funds on the closing date);
- opening utilities accounts;
- appraisal and inspection fees (if necessary);
- if a Real Property Report is not available, a new one or title insurance; and
- mortgage financing costs.