Lawyers vs Notaries

Buying or Selling Property?
Here’s How a Real Estate Lawyer Can Help

Buying or selling real estate is likely one of the biggest transactions you’ll make in your lifetime. Given the complexities and high stakes that come with it, having someone on your side to confidently navigate the fine print can be vital for your success. 

This is where real estate lawyers come in. Whether you’re making your first or fifteenth property transaction, they help you mitigate risk and make the transaction go as smoothly as possible with your best interests in mind. 

Today, I’m shedding light on what a real estate lawyer can do for you, how much it costs to work with one, and how this is different from a notary.

What can a real estate lawyer do for you? 

To put it simply, a real estate lawyer helps you navigate the legal aspects of a property transaction. 
By having someone on your side with professional expertise and knowledge of the laws and procedures, you can better avoid unnecessary costs and mitigate the chances of things going awry. You can be confident that all terms and conditions of the sale have been properly reviewed and that you’re set up for success once the transaction is finalized. 
Here are the main areas of a property transaction that real estate lawyers help with:
• Prepare and review all documents related to the transaction: Real estate lawyers have extensive knowledge of the transactions, documents, and insurance contracts involved with property transactions. They will help you prepare and review documents like the Agreement of Purchase or Agreement of Sale, and in the case of a condo purchase, the Strata Certificate. They also help prepare and review closing documents, mortgage documents, title documents, and transfer documents to make sure everything runs smoothly. 
Especially if it’s your first property transaction, these documents can seem foreign, so it’s helpful to have someone with you who understands the implications of everything you’re signing. 
• Make sure you know exactly what you’re buying: For homebuyers specifically, a real estate lawyer will do the work to validate the status of the property you’re hoping to acquire. They ensure that there are no claims registered against the property, that property taxes are up-to-date, and that the seller does indeed have the right to sell.
Real estate lawyers often have easy access to information about a property that might be difficult to find on your own, and they can help translate any technical language.
• Provide legal advice: Real estate lawyers are trained in a wide range of legal areas, meaning they are equipped to provide legal advice if you’re unsure about the implications of a decision, or if for some reason the transaction goes sideways. Real estate lawyers are specialized in handling disputes related to property transactions and can guide you in the right direction.  
• Represent you (in and out of the courtroom): In the event that a dispute between you and the other party is taken to court, your real estate lawyer can provide legal representation to help resolve the issue. Outside the courtroom, a real estate lawyer can also assist with contract negotiation to help you get the best deal. 

Overall, having someone on your team who knows the fine print can give you invaluable peace of mind that you’re not entering into any sort of risky situation. This becomes especially worthwhile if your purchasing arrangement is complex.

What’s the difference between Notaries and Real Estate Lawyers? 

The main difference between a notary and a lawyer is that a lawyer can represent you in court, while a notary cannot. In other words, a real estate lawyer can act as a notary, but a notary cannot act as a lawyer. 
While notaries are equipped to deal with legal matters and can offer legal advice in certain areas of practice, they are not trained in legal areas to the extent of a lawyer and do not get involved in litigation. Just like a lawyer, a notary is completely capable of handling the legal documentation for your property transaction, though a lawyer can provide additional insights when it comes to understanding how the law affects your case and advise you on the best path.

How much does it cost to work with a real estate lawyer?

While working with a real estate lawyer does come as an added expense, it helps you avoid unnecessary costs and legal hiccups in the future - not to mention reducing the stress of the transaction itself. You can think of paying for a lawyer as insurance that your transaction will be handled properly, even if you’re faced with challenges.  
For transactions under $2MM, you can expect to spend between $700 and $1,500 on legal fees. Your cost will depend on factors like the complexity of the transaction, whether you are buying or selling, and the value of the property. Most real estate lawyers in Canada will charge a flat fee for the transaction, but some will charge by the hour.

Getting started with a real estate lawyer 

At the end of the day, working with a real estate lawyer or notary benefits you. They are there to guide you through major property transactions by offering timely, accurate legal advice and checking that all proper procedures are followed.  
When selecting a lawyer (or notary), it’s essential to do your own research. To help you get started in your search, I’m sharing a few professionals I’ve worked with: 

Using my recommendations as a starting point, I highly advise still doing your own research to find the best fit for you and your needs. If you have any questions about working with a real estate lawyer or a notary, send me a message and I will be happy to answer them. 

- Vince

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