Accepting a buyer’s offer to purchase your home can be a huge sigh of relief. Placing your home on the market can be stressful, and even though you may be entering a hot real estate market, it’s the potential buyers who will truly tell you what your home is worth and what you stand to gain financially from your property sale.
Once the agreement of purchase and sale (“APS”) is signed and a deposit has been paid, most real estate buyers and sellers will consider the transaction done – but not quite. There are still a number of steps that take place between the buyers’ and sellers’ lawyers (not the same lawyer, with rare exceptions) that help your property transaction go smoothly behind the scenes.
Confirm (or Negotiate) Your APS Conditions
A hot real estate market can mean that buyers are ready to put in ‘clean offers,’ or to purchase your home “as is” without any conditions. This means that they’re committing to the purchase, full stop.
Under calmer conditions, real estate buyers might want to include a number of conditions – some quite standard, and some not. Many buyers want to include a condition about financing, which ensures that they can secure a mortgage or loan to meet the full purchase price and allows them to back out of the deal if that falls through.
Many home buyers now want to include a condition that the purchase is only valid “upon the sale of the buyer’s property,” in case they have decided to offer to buy your property before they have a firm sale of their current home. Other home buyers wish to include a home inspection condition which will allow a professional to inspect your property to ensure that there are no serious issues with the home that may be invisible to an untrained observer.
While most of these conditions on the purchase of a home are fairly standard, some may be unique, or more complicated. If you have a real estate lawyer on-hand early, they can help you navigate the requested conditions and fulfilment of them during the closing of the sale of your property. If negotiations go back and forth over satisfaction of conditions, a real estate lawyer can act as your representative to take the stress and confusion off of your plate.
Review the Paperwork
When dealing with any real estate transaction, the fine details in any agreements are critical. Agreements of Purchase and Sale (the standard real estate agreements) often look like boilerplate to the naked eye, but the fine points contained within are the ones that determine the exact details of your transaction, and it’s crucial to get them right.
When you meet with a real estate lawyer, they will review with you all of the obligations that you have moving forward pursuant to your Agreement of Purchase and Sale. For example, while your home does not need to be professionally cleaned after you move out, it is a standard term to leave a home in a ‘broom swept condition.’ On the technical side, there may also be issues with the title on the property – something that stops the purchaser from having clear title to the home, and a real estate lawyer will assist with ensuring all title issues are resolved. Your real estate lawyer will also determine the final figures and any adjustments needed to ensure the right price is paid by the buyers. For example, you might have overpaid on your property tax and will need reimbursement from the purchaser.
Truth be told, the majority of the work done by real estate lawyers happens behind the scenes. When your transaction closes, the lawyers will help to ensure the purchasers receive the keys and may hold the funds from your transaction in trust until any other issues have been resolved.
When your real estate lawyer has the money from your sale, they may be responsible for paying off the mortgage on your behalf, along with any liens that were on the property. This is not always as simple as it sounds. Whether your mortgage is through a bank or a private lender, simply paying off the amount owing does not automatically mean that the mortgage is discharged from title. Your lawyer must obtain a Discharge of Charge that has been registered (or register one themselves), meaning that the mortgage is officially deleted from title to the property.
However, just like Clark Kent dashing into the phone booth to become Superman, your real estate lawyer is also there just in case things do not go smoothly during the closing. If there is any sort of legal dispute with the purchaser or the purchaser’s lawyer, your lawyer is there to represent your interests. If funding falls through, for example, or the buyer attempts to back out at the last minute, your real estate lawyer can take the necessary measures, including providing advice or even commencing litigation, to help protect your interests.
Your real estate lawyer may seem like a small part of selling your house, but their involvement can make all the difference. If everything goes smoothly, your lawyer may be comfortable hiding in the background while they do their work, but if anything goes awry then they will be front and centre helping to make things right.
We’ve acted for countless real estate buyers and sellers in the Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo regions. Put your mind at ease when you’re selling your home, and make sure having a great lawyer is one less thing to worry about. Contact us today to set up a consultation.