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Role of lawyers

Region: Ontario Answer # 388

The general role of real estate lawyers is to protect your legal rights throughout the process of selling or buying a home. Most importantly, your lawyer will review your Agreement of Purchase and Sale to ensure that it meets your needs, and that you fully understand the legal rights and obligations you have agreed to.

Role of a lawyer before your offer has been accepted

Before making an offer on a home, you may find it useful to have your offer reviewed by a lawyer. The lawyer can explain the legal concerns that generally arise from the purchase and sale of a home, and advise you as to whether your offer protects your rights. If necessary, the lawyer can make changes to the offer to reflect your needs.

Role of a lawyer once your offer has been accepted

Once your offer has been accepted by a seller, your lawyer will be responsible for a number of searches and administrative tasks. Most importantly, your lawyer will make sure that the person selling the property is the registered owner. Your lawyer will also perform other administrative tasks, such as:

  • Transfer the billing information with the utility companies
  • Make sure that taxes and utility bills have been paid
  • Find out if there are any mortgages, liens, or easements registered against the land
  • Check with the municipality to make sure there are no unpaid taxes
  • Ensure the property complies with the zoning requirements
  • Check a survey of the property to make sure that the home is accurately described in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale

As an alternative to conducting some of the searches, your lawyer can explain the option of title insurance to you. In fact, most lawyers now require buyers to purchase title insurance, since it gives a great deal of title protection for a one-time low cost.

If you are buying a home with another person such as your spouse, your lawyer will also explain the different legal options for registering the legal title. For example, you may want to register the home under one spouse’s name only. Or, you may want to register the home together, in which case, you will have to choose whether to register as joint tenants or as tenants in common.

Lawyer’s fees

Lawyers will generally charge a set fee for their work plus the actual expenses that they incur on your behalf for things such as title search fees and registrations. These expenses are referred to as disbursements. Different lawyers will charge different fees for handling real estate transactions. Your lawyer’s fee will generally depend on the level of service provided, the complexity of your transaction and the area in which you live. You should ask your lawyer how much the legal fees will be, as well as an estimate of how much the disbursements will be.

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