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Frequently Asked Questions About Buying Your First Home

Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of only providing information about buying a home for the first time and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

This article was updated as of April 2023.

Congratulations!  This is a big step, so let’s take a moment to celebrate it!  Finally, after all the saving and planning, the offers, and discussions with your realtor, you are buying your first home.

However, now you may have many questions about the next steps that are ahead of you. For example, how can you ensure a smooth closing?

Let’s go through some of the questions that our clients frequently ask so you can feel confident and prepared between now and when you move into your new home.

Do I need title insurance?

Our clients ask this question all the time, and the answer is an unequivocal yes!

Title insurance is technically not a requirement for homeownership, but we cannot recommend it strongly enough.  In fact, many lenders require title insurance before funding a mortgage.

What is title insurance? It guarantees that the person selling your home has clear legal ownership and will transfer this to you. In addition, if there is a problem with the title that ends up as a registration on title after closing, such as a lien for unpaid property taxes or unpaid utilities, then the policy protects you against any financial loss.

Title insurance will also protect you in most cases if there are disputes with your neighbour as to the property line.

What is title fraud (or title theft)?

Title insurance will also protect you against title fraud. As we move further into digitalization, title fraud is an ever-growing threat. You need to be prepared and protected. The costs are, quite literally, too high to take such a risk.

Title fraud, or title theft, is where criminals can steal the title or apply for a mortgage against your home without your knowledge.  In fact, you may not discover title theft until you try to refinance or sell your home.

In the absence of title insurance, you will be responsible for the legal fees and other costs to remove a fraudulent mortgage from your title. The cost to resolve these problems can easily total hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

A prudent homeowner will invest in title insurance. It is a relatively low-cost, one-time payment that will protect you against many problems and give you peace of mind. In addition, your homeowner policy will cover you for the entire period that you own that property, whereas your lender policy will change if your lender changes, or it could change if you refinance with the same lender.

When should I get a lawyer involved before buying a home?

You should contact a lawyer as soon as you have an offer prepared and before it is firmed up (i.e. conditions are waived or fulfilled).  The sooner a lawyer is involved, the more smoothly your purchase process will be. 

When you work with a lawyer from early on in the process, your lawyer can deal with problems as they arise and avoid unpleasant surprises later on. Working with an experienced lawyer is one of the best decisions you can make when buying your home. 

If you are purchasing a condominium, your lawyer will need time to review the status certificate and make sure your transaction is in line with the Condominium Act, 1998. 

At the bare minimum, you will need a lawyer in place two weeks before the closing date. This is often, though not always, the deadline for completing a title search.  This is why it is critical that you involve your lawyer as soon as your realtor prepares the offer.

What should I budget for closing costs?

You want to make sure that you are prepared for the costs of buying your home. These costs will include:

  • your down payment
  • legal fees and reimbursements, including:
    • regulatory fees
    • title search fees
    • title insurance
    • Land Transfer Tax

I’m buying a home for the first time, so the Land Transfer Tax is refunded, right?

This is not as simple as you may have been led to believe, so let’s outline the qualifications for the first-time homeowner refund.

You must have never owned a home anywhere in the world. You must have never appeared on the title for any property.  It does not matter if you how you acquired the home, whether it was given to you, purchased, or as an inheritance.

Secondly, your spouse must not have owned any property anywhere in the world during the time that they were your spouse. Again, it does not matter if your spouse was gifted or inherited property.

If you are unsure whether you would qualify, feel free to reach out. Our team would be happy to clarify this issue for you.

What about my realtor costs?

You do not have to pay your agent if you are only purchasing a home.  However, if you are selling a property and buying another one simultaneously, there may be a commission. Therefore, you should ask your agent what that split is for both selling and buying from them.  As well, if you are selling your home, then there is normally a commission payable to your realtor in accordance with your contract with that realtor.

How does a virtual closing work?

We can do everything virtually, including transferring funds. We will even make sure that the realtor leaves the keys at the property in a secure location (such as a lockbox).  At Beeksma Law, we complete your entire transaction remotely, from start to finish.

Who will connect me to the utilities for this property?

It is your responsibility to set up your accounts with the utilities for the property. However, as part of our closing process, we ensure that you have the information that you need to handle that process.

How do I find a great real estate lawyer?

You talk to the team at Beeksma Law, of course! Our team works together to ensure that buying a home for the first time is a smooth process. As well, we understand that you may have a lot of questions about this process. Therefore, we will take the time to explain each step clearly so that you can be confident as we move forward.

Just note what one of our recent clients had to say: “Thank you for all your work in helping me to buy my first home. There were a lot of unknowns about it for me, so your patience with me, your willingness to explain things in simpler ways and your shared excitement were a huge blessing. Thanks again.”

When you work with Beeksma Law to buy your first home, you can expect excellence, prompt communication and advice that you can rely on.

If you would like to talk to our team, book a call here: [link]. We would be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

Qualities to Look for in a Real Estate Lawyer

Disclaimer: This article on choosing a real estate lawyer is intended for the purposes of providing information only and is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

Congratulations!  You are a real estate agent, and you just found that perfect house for your client.  You watch with joy as your clients mentally plan where their furniture will go and imagine the happy memories that they will have in that home. 

Then, your clients turn to you and ask, “Do you have a real estate lawyer that you recommend?” How do you answer that question? 

Giving a recommendation is more than just pulling a name from the Yellow Pages or Google.  That recommendation attaches to your professional reputation. Therefore, it is crucial to select someone trustworthy and exceptional. 

While you may have done your part to perfection, it is human nature to remember the last interaction. This means that when your clients think back to your service, the closing will be a large part of that memory. 

The right referral will add to the overall value that you provide your clients. The wrong referral will have your clients questioning your overall judgment. 

How can you choose?  Here are some of the qualities that are crucial to selecting the right real estate lawyer. 

Experience and Expertise

The first thing that you want to consider is a lawyer’s experience and expertise. Some questions to ask include: 

The Law Society of Ontario provides some of this information in its directory.  For example, real estate lawyers in Ontario must be specifically insured to offer those services to the public.  Is your lawyer properly insured? That directory also lists if a lawyer has any practice restrictions or was disciplined.

Some lawyers choose to solely handle real estate transactions whereas others prefer the litigation that can arise from real estate transactions. Firms like Beeksma Law provide comprehensive and sound legal advice in both areas. 

Ideally, there are no disputes during or after a real estate transaction. However, an experienced real estate agent knows that disagreements can arise.  When that happens, a savvy realtor is prepared with recommendations for their clients. 

Attention to Detail 

Real estate transactions tend to follow a pattern and an efficient lawyer will have checklists and protocols for each type of transaction. However, just like each client is unique, each transaction is also unique.  You are not providing cookie cutter service and neither should anyone that you recommend. 

A high-caliber real estate lawyer knows the questions to ask at the beginning to really learn about their clients.  Understanding their motivations, as well as any roadblocks that may arise, helps a legal professional be proactive. Issues may arise; however, getting ahead of them is a key skill to succeeding as a real estate lawyer. 

Never treat a real estate transaction as “run-of-the-mill”.  Instead, a sharp lawyer will give advice with your client’s specific situation in mind. 

This is also where a lawyer that handles real estate litigation is helpful for your transactions.  For example, having litigated transactions that have failed to close, Beeksma Law knows how to avoid unnecessary exposure to liability.

Responsiveness 

Real estate transactions are, by nature, fast-paced. Timing is absolutely everything. Meeting a deadline can make the difference between a deal closing or not. 

You need a law firm that will be responsive so that your transaction can move forward. A lawyer may have years of experience and a wide breadth of experience; however, that is of no use to you if you cannot contact them!

For the sake of your clients and your own peace of mind, the real estate lawyer that you want on your team must be a strong and responsive communicator.  

Client-Focused

While all professionals in the service industry should be client-focused, this takes on new meaning in a real estate transaction. Buying a home is the single largest purchase many of us make in our lifetimes. 

However, buying a home is simply not a purchase, and leaving a home is not simply a sale.  A home is deeply connected to our peace of mind and our personal security. It’s the place where traditions are created and passed down. A home is where we build our lives with our partners, raise our children, and celebrate so many of our milestones. 

Understandably, many clients have a lot of questions and concerns about buying or selling a home. This is especially true for first-time buyers since you are introducing many concepts for the first time. 

How should a lawyer answer those questions? Patiently and clearly. A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer can take complex concepts and explain them in a way that is digestible and easy to understand. A lawyer’s ability to share information will be the key to helping your clients feel empowered, and not overwhelmed, when buying a home. 

Finding a Real Estate Lawyer – Protect Your Reputation

As mentioned at the outset, your reputation is your most important asset as a real estate agent. Your clients trust you to give them good advice about their purchase or sale, and that includes the other professionals that you recommend. 

At Beeksma Law, we understand what a privilege it is when another professional introduces us to their clients. We view it as a high honour, but also as a weighty responsibility. 

We are an award-winning law firm that has been recognized multiple times for our work in the real estate field.  Our clients rave about our professionalism, but also our kind and patient approach.  Our peers in the legal industry recognize the high pedigree of education and experience that we provide. 

For each and every one of our clients, excellence is the minimum standard that you can expect.  Shayna Beeksma and her team have built a reputation based on their client-focused practice, their ability to leverage technology to be even more responsive, and their strategic and attentive approach to each new transaction. 

We would be happy to discuss whether our practice is a good fit for your clients.  You can book a call with us here