Our First Home: Choosing your real estate lawyer

Our First Home: Choosing your real estate lawyer

Buying your first home comes a lot of legal arrangements. You’ll need to take care of many objectives within a short amount of time. One of the most resourceful people to seek professional counsel from during the process is a real estate lawyer.  


Why is having a real estate lawyer important?

While services and situations will vary according to your needs, a real estate lawyer specializes in managing realty-based law. They look after aspects of their clients’ cases from start to finish. By using their services, you’re paying to ensure your legal rights stay protected. Some firms even specialize in residential real estate law. Your lawyer can also explain any complicated clauses, terms or laws stated in your Offer to Purchase.


Your real estate lawyer will be one of the first (or more commonly last) people you’ll consult with.


In short, they know how to handle the “ins and outs” of difficult real estate law and communicate it so that it’s easy for you to understand.  


I can’t afford the service of a lawyer and want to hire a notary instead. What can they do?

Public notaries can complete a majority of administrative tasks that real estate lawyers can. However, notaries cannot represent clients in court or provide legal advice if a dispute comes up. A notary is usually restricted to witnessing the signature of titles, deeds, and conducting title searches.  In a few provinces they can also prepare a Statement of Adjustments.


Remember: A notary cannot offer you any legal representation or advice. Doing so is illegal in some provinces.


A lawyer, on the other hand, can do all of the above and provide legal advice and representation both inside and outside a courtroom.


Depending where you live, you may have access to both services. Examine your needs and budget to make a well-informed decision.


What services does a real estate lawyer provide? When should I contact one?

A quality real estate lawyer will typically offer the following basic services when you’re buying a home, but legal advice can be sought at any time in the process, so don’t be shy to get help when you need it.


Your geographic location and situation means that the extent of these services can be greater or less.


Typically, your lawyer and their team will be responsible for:

  • Completing a Title Search
  • Reviewing Title and Land Registration fees
  • Preparing legal and mortgage documentation
  • Reviewing and/or changing your Agreement of Purchase and Sale (to meet your needs)
  • Helping you to arrange a Title Insurance policy
  • Transferring of billing/utility fees
  • Processing your property tax forms and ensuring that the property is in your name
  • Organizing and taking care of your final financial transactions, like making sure your down payment and offer are accepted by the seller and their lawyer

I’m buying an older condo and would like more information on its history. How can I get this?

If you’re buying a previously-owned condo, your lawyer will also help you get an additional certificate called a Condo Status (or Estoppel) Certificate. Getting this document is required in all provinces except for Quebec.


This certificate is important to have because it informs you about:

  • The financial status of your unit
  • Condo fees you’ll have to pay
  • Who the property manager will be
  • If pets are allowed
  • If the seller owes arrears (or outstanding balances) to the condo board or on your unit and more.

Think of getting this certificate as getting a “CarProof report” or history report on the condo unit. Every detail you’d want to know about your unit is on the certificate – good or bad.


How much can I expect to pay my lawyer?

An experienced real estate lawyer will typically charge upwards of $700-800+ for a job well done.


This fee may or may not include disbursements.


Disbursements are activities such as:

  • Costs of printing
  • Filing your deed and land title registration on Teranet
  • Postage and courier shipping documents/materials


Basically, disbursements are any administrative work that the firm pays for out-of-pocket.


When calling up firms, it’s always helpful to ask about the fees you’ll be paying. Some firms provide quotes that are all-inclusive while others charge disbursements separately from legal services. Doing this will give you a feeling of what you can comfortably afford.


How do I find a real estate lawyer in my city or province?

Finding a real estate lawyer these days comes easier than it was in the past. There are many ways you can find one that works for you: on the Web through sites like Lawyer Locate, in your local phone book, by word-of-mouth, and your realtor’s recommendations.


If you want to know more about your lawyer’s track record, you can do a search online through your provincial law society or regulatory body. Searches are usually free since it’s a public domain.


Overall, real estate lawyers are here to help make home buying an easy, streamlined process. With strong cooperation and preparation on both sides, you’ll get the keys to your new home faster than you think!


Speak to one of our Mortgage Specialists about finding you the right Real Estate Lawyer


Contact Us!

A Maryland native and Toronto-area transplant/graduate of the University of Toronto, Christine is a content writer at Loanerr. When not writing articles, she's an avid swimmer, cat lover, violinist in a indie band, and a humble food aficionada.