Two of the most costly closing costs for homebuyers are home inspections and legal fees. Although most homebuyers know the importance of a home inspection, it’s important not to overlook the crucial role your real estate lawyer plays. Buying a home is a big investment – you’ll want to make sure your best legal interests are looked after. An experienced real estate lawyer will ensure you’re legally protected and will make buying a home a lot easier and less worrisome.
Finding a Real Estate Lawyer
It’s a good idea to choose your real estate lawyer ahead of time before you start house hunting. This will give you plenty of time to find the best real estate lawyer – the last thing you want to do is rush to find a lawyer once you’ve put an offer on a house. A good place to start is with people you can trust – family, friends and coworkers who have recently bought or sold a house. You can even ask your real estate agent for a recommendation. Your next best bet is to check the Yellow Pages for real estate lawyers. There are also websites you can check with client reviews.
Choosing a Real Estate Lawyer
Choosing a real estate lawyer is a lot more complicated than you think. Similar to hiring a contractor for work on your house, you shouldn’t simply choose the lawyer with the lowest fees. Although fees are important, there are other things to consider. Lawyers often charge based on how complicated a real estate transaction is. For example, if your mortgage is with a secondary lender or your lawyer runs into legal issues, you could end up paying more.
You should get a minimum of three estimates before settling on a real estate lawyer. Lawyers usually quote their fees in terms of base legal fees and disbursements. Although lawyers are a dime a dozen, it’s a good idea to select a lawyer that specializes in real estate. A lawyer with at least five years’ experience in real estate is ideal. It’s a smart move to do your due diligence and verify with your province’s law society website to ensure your lawyer is in good standing. Similar to your real estate agent, you’ll want to be able to connect with your lawyer on a personal level and feel comfortable asking questions. It’s important for your lawyer to take the time to meet with you and explain the closing procedure, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer.
What Real Estate Lawyers Do For You
Here are some of the most common things a real estate lawyer will do for you if you’re buying a house:
- Review the Agreement of Purchase and Sale and other legal documents.
- Verify you have valid title on closing. Purchasing title insurance to fully protect you in case of title defect.
- Ensure there are no existing liens or claims.
- Verify property taxes are paid in full.
- Calculate provincial land transfer taxes owed.
- Finalize the statement of adjustments for debits and credits owed by the seller, including prepaid taxes and utilities.
- Prepare the final mortgage paperwork and register the mortgage.
- Complete the transaction and ensure all conditions of the offer have been satisfied.
- Provide you with the deeds and keys to your new house.
Real Estate Lawyer vs. Public Notary
When buying or selling real estate, it’s important to decide whether you’re going to use the services of a real estate lawyer or a public notary. Although lawyers and notaries perform similar tasks – registering the mortgage, title search, and preparing the statement of adjustments – there are some key differences to be aware of. If you run into any legal issues, a lawyer can represent you in a court, a notary cannot. Notaries also cannot provide legal opinion or advice. In terms of legal fees, lawyers and notaries charge similar fees. If you’re unsure of which one to go with, it’s better to be safe than sorry and choose a lawyer.