Frequently Asked Questions
Real Estate/ Mortgages – Buyers
Q: I am a first-time home-buyer. How much do I need for a down-payment?
Q: What are “closing costs”?
A: Closing costs are those expenses associated with purchasing real estate which are in addition to your purchase price. Your mortgage will not cover the closing costs, therefore you must plan to cover these expenses out of your own pocket. Closing costs average 1.5% – 3.5% of the total cost of your home. Below are some typical closing costs you should anticipate and plan for:
Appraisal Fee – This is the fee for determining the property value for lending purposes. The appraised value may or may not be the same as the purchase price of the home or the assessed value for property tax purposes.
$200.00 – $400.00
Home Inspection Fee – Purchasers often hire a home inspector to examine the structures and systems in a home they are planning to purchase. The inspector will provide a written report which will identify potential problems with the home and an estimate of the cost of repair.
$300.00 – $500.00
Land Transfer Tax – (LTT) In Ontario, purchasers of residential real estate are required to pay land transfer tax at the time of closing. Land transfer tax is calculated using the formula indicated below and is based on the purchase price of the property.
For residential purchases, the formula is:
• 0.5% of the first $55,000 of the purchase price, plus
• 1.0% on the amount exceeding $55,000 up to and including $250,000, plus
• 1.5% on the amount exceeding $250,000 up to and including $400,000, plus
• 2.0% on the amount over $400,000.
First-time home buyers may be eligible for a refund of all or a portion of the tax. Eligibility requirements apply. Please let us know in advance if you are a first-time buyer.
For example, LTT on a $100,000 home is $725.00. On a $250,000 home, the LTT totals $2,225.00.
Title Insurance – Title insurance is commonly recommended in real estate transactions today, most often because there is no up-to-date survey of the property. Title insurance is cheaper to buy than having a new survey prepared. This insurance also covers a number of other title problems that may arise, such as fraud.
$250.00 – $400.00
Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) Insurance Fees – If your down-payment is less than 25% of the purchase price of your home, you must pay a one-time insurance premium of up to 3.5% of the principal amount of your mortgage. It may be possible to add this expense to the principal amount of your mortgage. Talk to your lender about this at the time you apply for a mortgage.
Up to 3.5% of principal amount of mortgage.
Interest Adjustment – You will need to pay interest on the mortgage for the period between the closing date and your first mortgage payment. If your first mortgage payment is due exactly one month after closing, you will not have this adjustment to plan for.
Varies greatly. $30.00 – $300.00
HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) – The HST (13%) applies to commercial properties and newly constructed homes but will not apply to resale homes. Buyers of new homes may be eligible for a rebate of HST paid up to $24,000.
Other Closing Adjustments – You will be required to reimburse the seller for any pre-paid property taxes, utilities, oil/propane, or equipment rentals.
On a newly constructed home, the closing adjustments can be quite substantial since they often include hydro and water meter installation costs.
Varies greatly. $10.00 – $1,000.00
Home Insurance – This type of insurance protects your home from loss by fire, etc. You may also want to purchase insurance on the contents of your home.
Varies greatly. $500.00 – $2000.00 year
Q: What do I need to do to prepare for the move?
A: Below are a number of administrative tasks you will want to deal with before moving:
• Arrange financing, if needed, and satisfy all conditions of financing (such as proof of income, proof of down-payment, etc.). Advise lender to send instructions to our office.
• Notify friends and family of your new address; arrange with Canada Post to have mail forwarded to new address.
• Arrange to cancel utilities and services (telephone, cable, etc) at your current address.
• Arrange start dates for utilities and other services at your new home.
• Arrange for home insurance at new property. Home purchases that are being financed by a bank or private lender cannot be completed without a fire insurance binder being provided to the lawyer in advance of closing, preferably days ahead of closing.
• Hire movers or rent a truck to do it yourself.
• Pack little-used items well in advance. Plan to have a garage sale or donate unneeded items to charity.
• Consider whether or not it is necessary to close current bank accounts and open new ones near your new location. Order new cheques with your new address on them.
• Provide your lawyer with all necessary documentation and information required for closing such as your instructions regarding title, your date of birth and the name of your mortgage lender.
• Arrange through your real estate agent to conduct a final inspection a day or two before the closing date. You will want to take note of any damage to the property since you made the offer to purchase it, ensure that chattels that are being purchased are still present and satisfy yourself that the current owners/occupants are making efforts to vacate.
Q: I am buying a property. What do I need to bring with me to the lawyer’s office and when will I sign legal papers?
Please bring with you at least two pieces of identification including one which bears your photo. A provincial health card cannot be used as identification. Your identification will be photocopied and kept in the file. If a party will not be available for signing, a Power of Attorney must be arranged well in advance.
Q: When can I expect to get the keys to my new property?
- The lender/buyer must advance closing funds;
- The lawyer must prepare cheques and have them certified;
- Documents and funds must be exchanged between lawyers;
- Documents must be registered on title.
Delays often occur in this chain of events. By the time all of these events take place, it is usually after noon. Therefore, if you are moving into your new property on closing day, do not plan to have access to the property until mid-afternoon at the earliest. Do not arrange to have movers arrive at your new property to unload until the afternoon in order to avoid frustration and incurring unnecessary additional moving costs if paying movers by the hour.
Real Estate/ Mortgages – Sellers
Q: When do I attend at the lawyer’s office and what do I need to bring with me?
Q: What should I do to prepare for closing?
A: There are a number of things you need to take care of as the closing date draws nearer:
• Provide the lawyer’s office with a copy of your current deed, any land surveys in your possession, your most recent property tax bill, details of any existing mortgages, your forwarding address (if known) and utility account numbers and details about any rented equipment (such as a water heater, water softener, etc).
• Make contact with all utility companies to advise of the closing date and to arrange for a final read of the meters.
• If you have cable television, advise the cable company of your upcoming move.
• Advise the telephone company that you are moving and arrange for a new phone at your new location.
• If the home you are selling is heated with oil or propane, arrange to have the tank filled as of the date of closing. Pay this final invoice and provide our office with a copy. An adjustment will be made on the Statement of Adjustments so that you will be given credit for the full tank of fuel.
• If you have a private well and the Agreement of Purchase and Sale requires a water potability certificate or certificates, please arrange to have the water tested and provide our office with the certificates when they are available.
• If you have a private septic system and the Agreement of Purchase and Sale requires you to pump the tank prior to closing, make arrangements to have this done.
• Contact your insurance company to arrange to cancel property insurance effective on closing.
• Arrange to have your mail forwarded or, alternatively, notify all of your contacts of your address change.
• If your property is rented and the tenants will be staying on after the closing date, advise the lawyer of the names of the tenants, amount of rent paid by each, the date the rent is due, whether or not the tenant has provided a deposit, the date the tenancy started, details of any rent increases over time, details as to who pays for utilities, copies of leases, etc.
• Make arrangements to move out of the property on or before closing. Ideally, you will be able to give vacant possession no later than noon on the closing date. Do not remove anything from the house that was included in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale or that would be considered a “fixture”. If you are unsure if something is a fixture or not speak to your lawyer.
• Book an appointment to meet with the lawyer a few days before closing to sign the necessary paperwork. Bring two pieces of identification with you to the appointment, one which bears a photograph. An Ontario Health Card cannot be used as photo id. Bring a key for your lawyer to keep until closing.
You must continue to make any property tax and mortgage payments that fall due before closing.
Q: When will the sale proceeds be available to me?
Q: My spouse and I were considering having one lawyer represent both of us to save time and money. Is this recommended?
Q: How can I minimize the overall cost of my divorce?
If you and your spouse are willing and able to discuss the issues peacefully you may wish to try mediation. In mediation, the spouses attempt to work out an agreement themselves under the supervision of a professional mediator (who is often a lawyer or counselor). Although it is not appropriate in every case, mediation usually results in reduced legal costs.
Another way to reduce costs is to use your lawyer’s time effectively. Lawyers typically charge by the hour so don’t waste their time (and your money) on irrelevant or trivial issues. Be prepared when you have meetings with your lawyer. Organize your documents in advance in an appropriate manner (ie. group like documents together, put things in chronological order, etc.).
Do not waste valuable time with your lawyer venting or getting overly-emotional about your ex-spouse. Your lawyer may be sympathetic to your situation, however, you must not use your lawyer as a therapist. If you feel that you could benefit from some emotional support during your divorce proceedings, inquire in your community about counseling and support services you may be able to access.
Do not hire a divorce lawyer solely on the basis of fees quoted. Getting the best possible long-term results may be worth spending a little more. Consider all reasonable offers to settle presented by your ex-spouse.
Q: What can I do to help my divorce proceeding to move along as quickly as possible?
You may be able to speed the process up by cooperating with your spouse. Petty conflicts often lead to lengthy court battles. If you and your spouse and your respective lawyers can come up with an agreement that works for everyone, you will save a significant amount of time and money. You may have to compromise on some issues in order to reach an agreement. Ask yourself whether it’s really worth it to take certain issues to court. If you are determined to “win” against your spouse on every aspect of your divorce, you will suffer a long, costly, drawn-out court battle. The more you’re willing to work cooperatively with your spouse, on the other hand, the faster and easier your divorce will be.
You can also assist your lawyer to speed things along by promptly providing him/her with required documents and information and by responding immediately to communications from your lawyer.
Q: Do I have to tell my lawyer everything, including very personal information?
If your lawyer doesn’t know your whole story, there is a risk that the other side may bring up information which is very damaging and for which your lawyer doesn’t have a response. Furthermore, your lawyer may have been able to strategize better if he/she knew certain things in advance. If information is revealed by the opposing party and it looks as though you have concealed certain information, your credibility may be damaged.
Q: How does the judge decide who gets custody? What can I do to improve my chances of getting custody?
The judge will consider the following factors, among others, in deciding who gets custody:
• How does the parent interact with the child?
• How well do the parents communicate/cooperate with each other where the children are concerned?
• How does the parent address the needs of the children?
• How safe and stable is each parent’s home environment?
• What does the child desire, if he/she is old enough to communicate this?
• How does each parent plan to care for the child?
If you want to maximize your chances of obtaining custody, do everything that you can to demonstrate that you are a responsible, caring, involved parent. Always be attentive to your child’s physical, emotional and social needs, putting them ahead of your own. Involve yourself in all aspects of your child’s life, particularly school, medical and recreational activities.
Demonstrate an appreciation that your child is attached to your ex-spouse. Encourage your child to have a relationship with the other parent (presuming that there is no history of abuse or violence). Show that you can cooperate with your ex-spouse in terms of visitation. Courts recognize the importance of both parents in a child’s life and will be less likely to grant custody to a parent who prevents a child from having a meaningful relationship with the other parent.