Having your offer accepted is only the first step in hanging the sold sign on your dream home. Once your offer is accepted, it's time to get your Real Estate Lawyer involved.
This week, I caught up with Charlotte Edwards, Associate Lawyer at Kennedy Schofield Lutz Lawyers to break down what your Real Estate Lawyer will do during this vital time in your home purchase:
1. What is the role of a real estate lawyer?
A real estate lawyer helps clients who have an accepted offer to buy or sell their property complete the transaction. The initial step is for the lawyer to review the purchase and sale agreement and discuss it with the client to confirm all details.
For a client who is buying a property, it is important for the real estate lawyer to review the title in detail with their client to make sure things like access, easements, and restrictive covenants are clear, and to answer any questions the client may have. The lawyer will also prepare all mortgage documents to sign with the client, in addition to the documents necessary for the purchase. The lawyer is responsible for collecting money from the client and bank, and transferring it to the other side in exchange for the deed and confirming that all mortgages and secured interests currently impacting the title will be cleared prior to closing.
For a client who is selling their property, the lawyer will prepare the deed for execution, as well as payout the mortgage. If the property is not migrated, it will also be important to migrate the property to the land registration system prior to closing. Regularly people are not familiar with migration, which requires a detailed title search confirming a clear root of the title. The migration process became a requirement on sale in the early 2000s.
Throughout the process, the lawyer works collaboratively with the real estate agent to ensure the transaction runs as smoothly as possible, including responding to questions from the opposing party and negotiating holdbacks or credits on closing day.
2. What is the process for finding and working with a real estate lawyer?
The most common way I find that people come to me is through recommendations of someone they know and trust – like a family member, friend, realtor, or mortgage broker. However, you can always search online for a lawyer as well. It is important for you to be comfortable with the real estate lawyer, and typically I organize an initial phone call to speak with the client to answer any questions they have. Throughout the process, there is an open dialogue that occurs through phone calls or e-mails to answer questions. Closer to closing, the lawyer will schedule a meeting in-person or by zoom to review all documents necessary for signature and collect everything needed to close.
3. Things you should have ready for your real estate lawyer.
A lawyer will often provide a list in their retainer letter of the specific items needed for your transaction. A lawyer will always need to see a valid government-issued photo ID to verify your identity.
For a purchase, some of the things your lawyer will need are contact information for your mortgage broker or bank, confirmation of insurance, copies of satisfactory water tests, proof of assumption of leased equipment, and a certified cheque or bank draft with your down payment and closing costs.
For a sale, some of the things your lawyer will need are a copy of your most recent tax bill and confirmation of payment, a recent statement noting your mortgage account number so a payout can be ordered, a fuel top-up slip if there is oil or propane as a heat source on your property, a septic pump-out receipt, and receipts for any renovations required to be completed prior to closing.
Every real estate transaction is unique, so these are just a few common items, but never be afraid to ask your real estate lawyer a question – it’s their job, and the job of your real estate agent to help guide you through the process of your real estate transaction and make it as smooth as possible.
Real Estate Advisor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I help people buy and sell homes with Engel & Völkers.