When a home is bought or sold, a real estate lawyer is needed to act as an intermediary between the buyers, sellers, mortgage lenders, and governments. They ensure all the details of the sale are handled correctly at closing. Real estate lawyers should be involved beginning at offer time leading up to closing day.
Although it may sound easy to check and double-check all the information for the sale, it’s actually much more complicated than that. Sellers need a real estate lawyer to verify and collect closing costs, ensure the title and ownership are transferred to the correct parties and ensure the municipalities update their tax roles, remove the mortgage and liens from the property, ensure land transfer taxes are paid by the buyers, and file all necessary paperwork. It is best to engage a lawyer who specializes in real estate.
Your lawyer will be sure the proceeds of the sale are delivered to the rightful place, including paying off any mortgages or liens, deducting all associated fees, and returning the balance to you and any partners.
If the home is sold due to divorce, for example, the lawyer has to be sure the split is accurate according to the separation agreement. They will also deal with second mortgages, liens on the home, and unpaid taxes—essentially resolving anything issues on title that could hinder the closing of the property.
Because you want your sale to go as smoothly as possible, you’ll want your real estate lawyer to be:
Ask as many questions as you want about experience, fees, and knowledge before agreeing to work with them.
Most real estate lawyers begin with a base fee, which can vary depending on the extent of the sale—condos could cost less than detached homes, for example. Expect to pay disbursements like photocopying and carrier fees, and registration fees like title registration and insurance.
Here’s a rough guide for how much you can expect to pay:
|Professional services||$750 – $1500|
|Disbursements||$200 – $500|
|Title insurance||$250 – $2500|
Title insurance is not mandatory, but covers buyers from losses regarding the title or ownership of the property. This includes protection against title defects, pre-existing liens on the property, errors in public records, and other title-related issues. The cost of your title insurance is relative to the size of your purchase price.
Your best course of action is to ask your agent, friends, family, or even your lender for recommendations. If someone you trust recommends a lawyer, you’ll feel more comfortable working with them.