BUYING A PROPERTY – TIPS
Real Estate Purchase
Following these simple tips will very likely save you time, hassles, and money down the road:
- Before Shopping for a Property: Choose Your Team
- The Real Estate Purchase Contract
- Don’t Sign Anything Until You Speak With Your Lawyer
- Other Costs of Your Purchase
- Condominiums: Buyer Beware
- Mortgage Fraud: A Cautionary Tale
Before Shopping: Choose Your Team
Congratulations! You’ve finally decided to buy a home. Before you shop around and find that “perfect” place, we recommend that you take some time to assemble your team in advance of finding something. Having these professionals in place prior to signing will make the entire process smooth and streamlined – and will help you avoid most of the problems people often encounter in real estate transactions.
- Choose an Experienced Realtor: Do yourself a favor by talking to trusted friends and colleagues to find a knowledgeable and experienced realtor who can help you in your property search. Generally speaking, we recommend against hiring the listing agent of a property you may be interested in, since this will put that realtor in a position of dual agency – acting for both you and the seller. While not unethical, it can be problematic for a realtor to represent both parties, and we advise against it. Having your own realtor ensures that your best interests are vigorously represented when it’s time to make an offer.
- Have Financing in Place: Take the time to meet with a banker or mortgage specialist to get pre-approved for a mortgage, so you know how much you can afford. So many people skip this step until after they sign, only to discover they can’t obtain financing on those terms. Likewise, don’t assume that a pre-approval will guarantee final approval. A lender will typically want to review the property to ensure it has sufficient value to secure your mortgage. That’s why we strongly recommend that you always include a financing condition in your offer – to enable you to easily get out of the contract if your mortgage is not approved. Additionally, do not waive this financing condition until you have your mortgage approval in writing.
- Choose an Experienced Lawyer: The best advice we can give is to choose a lawyer with real estate knowledge and experience to assist you with the legal elements of your purchase. We would be honoured to assist you in this regard, since real estate is the bulk of what we do. We assist with hundreds of transactions every year, and know what to look for to avoid potential pitfalls and problems.
Having assisted thousands of people with their real estate transactions, we know how valuable it is to have a team in place before you sign … that way you can buy the home you dream of with confidence and trust that you’re protected against any future legal or other issues.
The Real Estate Purchase Contract
When you’ve found a home and feel ready to make an offer, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re committing yourself to – beyond just the purchase price of the property. Look into other related costs or potential issues associated with the purchase, including:
- Property taxes
- Monthly utilities
- Zoning or building restrictions
- Home Association or Condo Fees
- Restrictions on title
If you feel ready to proceed, your realtor will fill out an offer to purchase document on a standard “Real Estate Purchase Contract” form.
General Provisions …
This form contains all the standard provisions of a purchase contract, and may be accepted, rejected, or countered by the seller as part of a negotiation process. Seek advice and guidance from your realtor at this point to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money in the current market, but know that once both parties have accepted and signed this document, it becomes a valid and binding legal contract.
It’s critical that you understand all the terms and conditions in your offer to purchase before you sign, to avoid potential issues down the road. For example, have you clearly specified exactly which items will stay with the house you’re buying and which items the seller will take away? Don’t make assumptions! Talk to your realtor and make certain that you understand all the terms and conditions you’re accepting in the contract.
Terms and Conditions to Protect …
We can’t stress enough the importance of including conditions in your purchase offer to protect you against elements you may not be able to control about the transaction. Some of these conditions may include:
- Selling your existing home
- Home inspection
- Repairing or replacing an existing defect in the property you’re purchasing
To avoid future problems, it’s always a good idea to review all terms and provisions of your offer with your lawyer before signing. Alternatively, you can also include a condition that the purchase is subject to your lawyer’s approval, to protect you against legal or other issues you may not know about.
It’s also advisable to make your purchase conditional on a satisfactory home inspection – the cost of a home inspection is a small price to pay for peace of mind down the road, knowing there are no substantial issues with the property. We also suggest that you save a copy of the listing material and other ads the seller’s realtor may have prepared or distributed on the property, in the event of any future disputes.
Don’t Sign Anything … Before Speaking With Your Lawyer
Many people overlook this step and only speak with a lawyer after they have signed an offer to purchase. At that point, however, it’s a legal contract, binding on both parties (after all conditions are removed), and there may be terms of the contract that could cause you problems if you don’t clearly understand their implications prior to signing.
While realtors typically prepare a purchase contract, they may not be familiar with all the legal implications of certain provisions in your particular case, so it’s wise to seek expert legal advice before you sign to avoid problems that are difficult or impossible to fix after signing.
If for whatever reason you can’t see a lawyer before signing, then advise your realtor to make your purchase conditional upon your lawyer’s approval – another layer of security to protect your interests.
Other Costs of Buying
There are a number of additional costs associated with every real estate transaction, over and above the purchase price, which your lawyer will review with you, including:
- Legal fees and disbursements
- Property tax adjustments
- Fees to register title and mortgage
- GST if buying a new home
- Mortgage fees
- Appraisal and Real Property Report (if required)
Condominiums: Buyer Beware
Condominiums are a special kind of property requiring specific care and caution when purchasing. If you are planning to buy a condominium, click here to learn how to protect yourself.
Periodically, if people are unable to qualify for a mortgage from a conventional lender, they may be tempted to consider purchasing properties being offered with low, or even no, down payments – or some other appealing enticement.
This is an example where having an experienced team working with you can potentially prevent financial distress or disaster. Always consult with your real estate agent, lawyer, and mortgage specialist to prevent any fraud or deception in a potential transaction.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions that aren’t answered on our site, or to schedule an appointment. We’re always happy to chat with you about any of your legal needs.
- Phone: (587) 272-2050
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org