Buying or Selling a Home in British Columbia

Kenneth Pazder for The Lawyers Weekly

When should I consult a real estate lawyer?

A real estate lawyer should be consulted right at the beginning.

Contrary to the current practice in the British Columbia real estate industry of involving lawyers at the tail end of the sale or purchase transaction -basically to paper over a "done-deal", it is highly recommended that prospective sellers and buyers retain British Columbia real estate lawyers before they sign on the dotted line, particularly since a real estate transaction usually is one of significant value to the parties involved.

The reasons for getting a British Columbia real estate lawyer involved from the start are both obvious and compelling.

Why would you sign off on a million dollar contract and then have your lawyer review it?

A BC lawyer can't fix up a poorly worded contract after it's signed, sealed and delivered [and subject conditions to the contract have been removed].

Being in the industry, British Columbia real estate lawyers are familiar with the best realtors and mortgage brokers and can recommend them to a prospective purchaser or seller.

If you don't want to use a realtor, a real estate lawyer can act for you as your agent in selling or buying real estate in BC.

A BC real estate lawyer is trained to act as your advocate and can generally provide impartial advice, unlike a realtor who has a vested interest in obtaining his or her commission.

If you want to sell your own home without any agent, a real estate lawyer can walk you through the process, show you how to get your home on the MLS for a nominal listing fee, draft the sale agreement and complete the conveyancing [title transfer] for a fraction of a normal real estate commission.

Even if you are a fairly accomplished negotiator, it's always harder to negotiate for yourself than for someone else. In litigation circles, it is said that he who represents himself has a fool for a client. Let a British Columbia real estate lawyer negotiate for you and chances are that he or she will end up saving you money.

Real estate lawyers can advise you about ancillary products to conveyances such as title insurance, which for a modest, one-time premium can substantially minimize the risk associated with purchasing real estate. This product has no deductible and it's good for as long as you or your immediate family heirs own the home.

Canadian real estate lawyers can spot a potential problem before you sign [or before you remove subject conditions], such as possible GST liability, non-resident holdback requirements under the Income Tax Act or ineligibility for special tax exemptions.

Canadian real estate lawyers can also steer you clear of pitfalls such as letting realtors talk you into a dubious relationship called a "limited dual agency agreement", whereby the realtor purports to represent BOTH the seller and the buyer at the same time. While this agency agreement is permissible under the Real Estate Act, it is NEVER a good idea, as the seller and buyer have diametrically opposed goals -one being to get the best price and the other the least!

The end result is no effective representation for either party, despite the full commission going the single agent!

At the end of the day a real estate lawyer still has to be involved in the closing of your real estate transaction, so our advice is involve him or her sooner than later. I

n BC, notaries public can prepare and witness transfer or mortgage documents but in the author's opinion, their limited legal training makes it unlikely that they would be able to recognize or effectively deal with a complex or unusual occurrence which could arise on a purchase or sale. As notaries are neither trained nor authorized to appear in court, they must ultimately turn over litigious files to lawyers anyway, so a client might as well have a real estate lawyer dealing with the file in the first instance.

Kenneth Pazder is a lawyer with Pazder Law Corporation in Vancouver, BC.

A great way to start your search for a local Canadian Real estate lawyer is at Go to the 'Find a Lawyer' search box that appears on the right hand side of this screen to start your lawyer search. Type in Real Estate or the name of the law firm, the city and the province that you are looking to hire a lawyer from, and click on the 'Search Now' button. This will generate a list of local Canadian Real Estate lawyers.

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