Choosing a Real Estate Lawyer in Ontario: Key Questions to Ask

Picking a Real Estate Lawyer in Ontario: Key Questions to Ask

If you’re considering the purchase or sale of property in Ontario, chances are you’ve also thought about hiring a real estate lawyer. we’re sure the process of vetting them has come to mind as well. This guide can help with these steps. 

The following are key questions you can ask an Ontario real estate lawyer that will leave you with enough information to make a confident decision. Questions to ask lawyers can be broken down into three simple categories: questions about the lawyer, questions about money, and questions about the individual transaction. Follow along.

Questions to Ask an Ontario Real Estate Lawyer

These key questions will let you know a better idea of their aptitude. You are looking for a more tenured lawyer, with specific knowledge in Ontario real estate. Also, you are looking to make sure they have at least a few clients they have already helped in similar cases, as this speaks to the results they can generate.

How Long Have You Been Practicing?

As we noted above, when dealing with a complex issue like a real estate transaction, you need to know their experience. Not just their general experience as a lawyer, but rather the experience they’ve had in real estate. The more time they’ve spent on cases like yours, the more help they can be with you. 

How Many Clients Have You Served to Date?

If you are happy with their years in practice, ask next about their clients. In most cases, you won’t get specific names, but asking a searching question like, “describe a similar case to mine that you worked on,” will help you get a better idea of their ability to help in your situation. You are looking for cases that are more recent since real estate laws and tax laws are constantly changing. 

You also need to follow up online and check their service ratings from past clients. While these may not be the best judge, your intuition is really a better judge of this, they may help if you are on the fence about a particular choice. Google and their website will be good resources to read reviews.

Questions About Money

Woman managing finances

Money questions are nothing to shy away from when hiring a real estate attorney. It is better to feel a little uncomfortable at the start than to get surprised at the end with hidden fees.

How much do you charge?

A simple enough question, but there are some specific things to look for in the response. Many Ontario-based real estate lawyers charge by the hour and others prefer a fixed percent of the total transaction cost. 

It is important to ask at this point which fee structure they operate under and whether there are any other fees you should be aware of. Keep in mind you do not have to sign with the first one you call. You can “shop around” a bit more to try and save money. But be aware, like many things in life, you’ll likely get what you pay for. You may have to compromise on quality to get the price you want. 

Use our land transfer tax calculator if you need an estimate of how much money you will pay when transferring property.

What Does Your Closing Fee Include?

You want to know that your potential choice for a real estate lawyer is knowledgeable about the closing procedures, including closing costs. You will need to look for mention of items like title insurance, disbursements, government-imposed fees, and transfer taxes when bringing up this question.

Also, make sure you also fully understand the difference between what they consider legal fees and what is considered disbursements or other charges. To some lawyers, these are separate line items, while others lump them all together into one charge. 

There are too many other costs associated with a real estate transaction to overlook technicalities like this. It is important to decide, at this point, whether the costs warrant hiring a lawyer at all. Depending on the case, hiring a real estate lawyer may not be the solution for you.

What is My Title Insurance Premium?

The title insurance premium covers any issues arising from the real estate transactions and can vary in price dependent on price, location, and type of real estate involved. Typically, the costs range from a couple of hundred dollars up to a few thousand, so you’ll want to ask about this upfront.

Are There Any Tax Implications?

When you ask this, you aren’t looking for the potential candidate to give you tax advice, you are using the question to determine if you will need to look for those kinds of implications down the road. Depending on the answer, you may want to consult a licensed accountant.

Oppositely you may be eligible for tax rebates for the transaction, which could help with any taxes that may come due.

About The Case

Real estate lawyer with clients

The next set of questions should be focused on your specific situation and involves more of the process management side of the transaction.

What Does the Process Look Like?

Whether buying or selling, a real estate transaction needs to be handled with care and efficiency. Document requirements are stringent and need to be timely, so you will want a potential candidate to be able to outline what to expect from beginning to end. The more the detail, the better you can feel knowing they have it under control. 

You want to know from the start which items the lawyer will handle and which you will be responsible for before you get too far into details. And, you will want to make sure they offer updates at regular intervals, so you can be kept apprised of the progress along the way. 

Also, look for any signs of hesitation or “broad-stroking” as these could indicate a lack of knowledge in the area. The worst thing you could do is hire a lawyer you think is able, and find out they aren’t.

When and Where Will the Signing Be?

Signing day is a great day for all the parties involved. This is when the actual transaction goes down. You want to ask potential real estate lawyers how they see this working, in practice. As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to get into a situation where you expect your lawyer to be at the final signing, only to find out later that it was not part of the original arrangement.  Not only could you face more legal fees down the road, but you could also end up by yourself at a critical stage.

The other important thing to note in this question is the expectation of where the signing will take place. In today’s technologically advanced world, this may not be a physical meeting. You will want to get your potential lawyer candidate’s take on this from the start, so make sure you will be comfortable with that. Again, you have a choice when it comes to hiring a real estate lawyer. The best candidates will make sure the plans work well with you.

Final thoughts on questions to ask real estate lawyers in Ontario

A real estate transaction is an intricate process, so you want to be sure you’re choosing the right candidate. Asking the right questions from the start could save you time and money in the long run. Make sure your real estate transaction is a smooth one by going into it armed with knowledge.

Schedule a free consultation with our team if you need help with buying, selling, or refinancing a property. 

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