It’s a common debate in the real estate world.

Who is the most important person in the real estate transaction process, your realtor or your real estate lawyer? Some believe your notary or lawyer is the most important person to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Sounds like a lot of pressure for one person!

Your lawyer is there to guard your rights and interests. They make sure your paperwork is correct, filed and that your transaction is completely finalized.

Wondering what else they do? The agents at have compiled some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. We get it. Lawyers can be a little bit scary.

So what does a Toronto real estate lawyer do?

If you’re a buyer then you should hire a real estate lawyer when you are about to sign the offer to purchase. Once they are retained they have a couple of responsibilities.

Firstly, they will perform a title search and get the necessary insurance. They will also register the home in your name, create a statement of adjustments and help to finalize everything on closing day. And their best role? Handing you the keys when you have the home!

If you’re a seller then the role of the lawyer is a bit different. They will do another title search on the property to make sure that no issues exist. They will then draft the deed, calculate your closing costs and hand you your statement of adjustments. They will also hand you the cheque for the sale minus any fees you may have like agent fees or their own costs.

Real Estate lawyers can also be utilized in the process of refinancing a home and work with the bank to finalize everything.

When I’m hiring a lawyer what should I be looking for?

Some people hire a professional off of the vibe they get from their first interaction. It’s important to trust the person and to also have a good rapport with them.

Here are a few more things you should be looking for:

  • a specialty and a focus in real estate law
  • market rate fees (don’t cheap out and go for less experience)
  • experience with the property you are buying/selling in terms of the size, price and location

You can also ask your lawyer about their experience level and if you wish request a reference from past clients. There are also several websites online that provide reviews for lawyers in the real estate field. A quick Google search should help you quite a bit.

What sort of cost am I looking at?

The cost in a real estate transaction varies quite a bit in terms of complexity and may be based on a fixed rate agreement or hourly billing. The lawyer’s fixed or hourly rate is very dependent on their level of expertise. Nowadays there is usually a base fee that is applied to a specific property and then you will be on the hook for what are referred to as disbursements. This is for things like mailing, photocopying etc. Whether you are buying, selling or refinancing it would be safe to budget $1500-$2500.

I’m confused about the difference between title registration and title insurance. Help!

A title registration is a very straightforward process. It means changing the name on the property form the seller to the new buyer. Title insurance is a bit different. It is there to protect you from liability if a title defect shows up. This could include things like zoning laws, existing work orders on the home or even property taxes that are overdue. Both of the fees I just described above are paid off on the day of closing.

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