ARTICLE
19 February 2024

Purchasing Real Property In Alberta – The Lawyer's Role

Buying real estate can be one of the most significant financial transactions in a person's life. It's important to understand how the process works...
Canada Real Estate and Construction
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Buying real estate can be one of the most significant financial transactions in a person's life. It's important to understand how  the process works and the services a real estate lawyer provides in Alberta. In this blog post, we'll walk you through the key steps of a home purchase and shed light on the role of a real estate lawyer.

Step 1: The Purchase Contract and Conveyancing Instructions

Typically, the Buyer's law firm gets involved after both parties have signed a purchase and sale contract and all conditions, like financing and inspections, have been satisfied. Realtors often facilitate this process, preparing the contract and assisting clients. Interestingly, in Alberta, lawyers can also help draft or review purchase contracts before they're finalized.

Once conditions are met, the finalized contract and conveyancing instructions are sent to the buyer's lawyer. This marks the beginning of the preparation for the transaction's completion on the closing date, also known as the possession date.

Step 2: Mortgage Instructions

Given the high cost of real estate, many Buyers opt for mortgage financing. After the contract is finalized, the Buyer or their Realtor informs the mortgage lending representative about the lawyer representing them by providing their name and contact information. The lender then sends mortgage instructions detailing the buyer's mortgage to the lawyer. The lawyer prepares mortgage documents, receives loan proceeds, and, on the closing date, transfers funds to the Seller's law firm.

Acting for both the buyer and the lender is common, as their interests usually align. The buyer seeks mortgage financing, and the lender wants a valid mortgage on the property title.

Step 3: Lawyer Review and Preparing for Closing

After opening their file, some of the steps completed by the Buyer's lawyer include:

  • reviewing the purchase contract and confirming that it is a legally binding agreement;
  • obtaining a title search for the new property and reviewing the pre-existing registrations on title (easements, utility rights-of-way, restrictive covenants, etc.);
  • reviewing the land transfer and other required documents received from the Seller's lawyer's office to confirm the transfer will properly convey title to the property to the Buyer and that other contract requirements are met;
  • confirming the “adjusted” purchase price. There may be minor adjustments to the purchase price between the Buyer and Seller depending on whether property taxes (or condo fees) have already been paid as of the closing date. The ultimate goal of such adjustments is to ensure that neither the Buyer nor the Seller pays costs for time when they are not the owner of the property;
  • confirming the amount of “shortfall” funds the Buyer will need to provide to close the transaction. Generally, the “shortfall” consists of the difference between the adjusted purchase price and the amount of mortgage funds that will come from the lender; and
  • negotiating a resolution for any issues that may arise between the Buyer and Seller during preparation for closing.

The Buyer's lawyer will generally arrange to meet with the Buyer several days before the closing date to discuss the transaction and sign the required mortgage and transfer documents.

Step 4: Closing

If all necessary documents are signed and delivered, and the lawyer has the funds (“cash-to-close”) in their trust account, the closing occurs. The buyer's lawyer sends the funds to the seller's lawyer and the Transfer of Land to the Land Titles Office to be registered. Once completed, the transaction is closed, and the purchase is finalized. The seller's lawyer notifies the Realtors that the keys are “releasable”, allowing the buyer to take possession.

Conclusion

While this overview provides a brief glimpse into a typical real estate transaction, we hope it helps buyers understand the valuable services that lawyers offer during a real estate purchase.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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