As a lawyer, I hear the same sentiment time and time again: do I really need a lawyer for that? There are admittedly times where you don’t need to seek the advice or assistance of a lawyer. Our services are generally voluntary, though I would always advise speaking to a lawyer if you have any doubt or worry about a business transaction or personal matter.
This is different, however, when it comes to real estate transactions. It is the single most important purchase most people make. Simply put, if you are buying or selling property in Ontario, you will require a lawyer to close the deal. You would be very ill advised to not seek legal advice as early in the process as possible. In fact, a lawyer should be consulted with even before you sign off on an Agreement of Purchase and Sale.
Real estate is a very tricky area, and it all starts with basic contractual interpretation. An Agreement of Purchase and Sale is long, intricate and fraught with terms and conditions that can make your head spin. What is a requisition date? What happens if you cannot close on time? Are there any onerous conditions that you may have missed? Seeking the advice from a lawyer early in the process can help ensure you do not run into any surprises as the transaction progresses.
Another benefit to seeking legal advice early is the all-important due diligence that is done before the deal closes. Lawyers are equipped with access to title documents that can tell you what, if anything, may be registered on title to the property in question that could stand in the way of closing the deal. Remember when that nice guy from the unknown utility company knocked on your door and had you sign an agreement for installation of a new air conditioning unit? Bet you didn’t know that a security interest was registered on title to your property when the unit was put in your home! Now you are getting letters from the purchaser’s lawyer demanding the lien be removed or the deal will not close. What can you do? A lawyer can certainly help alleviate these issues early on and ensure your deal closes on time, free and clear of any headaches and heartbreaks.
Finally, closing arrangements are done efficiently and properly if done by duly qualified real estate lawyers each representing the buyer and the seller. With the advent of electronic registration of closing documents, title transfers are done at the click of a button, and as lawyers, we have access to the electronic registration system right at our fingertips. The Ministry of Government Services has extremely strict access requirements to the system, and having this access is certainly not something to be taken for granted. That said, because real estate lawyers have this access, it is nearly impossible to close a transaction without a lawyer.
Buying and selling real estate is daunting but it is also exciting! If you want peace of mind in knowing the purchase or sale of your property will be done seamlessly, it is incumbent on you to seek the advice of a lawyer as soon as you begin your search for a new property or the process of selling property you own. It is well worth the investment!
Eric Gossin is business and real estate lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, and managing partner of Stancer, Gossin, Rose LLP. He can be reached at and (416)224-1996 ext. 210.
This newsletter is for educational purposes and is not legal advice.