Understanding the Real Estate Closing Process
After a real estate deal is signed, it's passed to the real estate lawyers to "close" the deal. But what exactly does that mean?
The real estate closing process can be overwhelming - it requires the buyer, sellers, realtors, mortgage broker, and lawyers to work together to ensure the property changes hands on the closing day.
I'm going to provide an overview on the entire real estate closing process in Ontario, from the initial deal to the final registration. You’ll learn the importance of working with qualified professionals, discover helpful tips, and gain an understanding of potential challenges and delays.
The Purchase Closing Process
Opening the File
The real estate lawyer opens the client's file, gathering necessary personal information and verifying identification as per the Law Society of Ontario's requirements. This step includes a conflict of interest check and executing a retainer agreement or engagement letter.
Reviewing the Agreement of Purchase and Sale
The lawyer then reviews the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, focusing on property details, purchase price, deposit amount, completion date, and additional clauses to understand the transaction's nuances.
Title Search and Status Certificate Review
In all purchases, a title search is conducted to check for liens, easements, and other encumbrances on the property. The title search is one of the most crucial steps in the process.
For condominiums, the lawyer reviews the Status Certificate, assessing the financial and legal status of the condo. This is usually included as a condition in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.
The buyer's lawyer then submits requisitions to the seller's lawyer, inquiring about the property's status, title issues, taxes, and compliance matters, ensuring the transaction can proceed on track.
Title Insurance and Mortgage Preparation
The lawyer discusses title insurance with the client, offering protection against potential title issues, and prepares mortgage documents in accordance with the lender's terms.
Finalizing Closing Documents and Funds
As closing approaches, the lawyer prepares and reviews necessary legal documents, including the Statement of Adjustments and mortgage. They also coordinate the collection and management of closing funds from both the buyer and mortgage lender.
Closing and Post-Closing
On closing day, the lawyer oversees the exchange of documents and funds, registers the transfer, and ensures the mortgage is properly recorded. Post-closing, they report back to the lender, provide a final report to the client, and ensure all the necessary legal documents, and financial aspects are properly concluded.
The Sale Closing Process
Initial Review and Preparations
The real estate lawyer begins by meticulously reviewing the Agreement of Purchase and Sale with the seller, focusing on crucial deadlines. They also obtain and review the parcel register and property tax information, ensuring all initial documentation is accurately prepared.
Responding to Requisitions
Addressing the buyer requisitions promptly and effectivey is the key to making sure the closing arrangements are set, the sellers rights are protected, and ultimately both lawyers are in agreement on key issues.
If there's an existing mortgage, the lawyer requests a payout statement, managing the legal and financial aspects of all the documents associated with the ensuring the mortgage is removed from title.
Document Preparation and Review
The lawyer prepares and provides essential documents, such as the Statement of Adjustments, to the buyer's lawyer. This step is crucial for outlining the financial transactions and adjustments required at closing.
Finalizing Document Execution
Organizing a meeting with the seller to review and sign the final closing documents is a pivotal step. This also includes collecting the keys to the property, symbolizing the transfer of ownership.
Completing the Transaction
The lawyer is responsible for delivering the closing package, including final documents and keys to the buyer’s lawyer and for receiving the closing funds. They ensure the transaction is finalized correctly, overseeing the release of the transfer deed.
Closing and Post-Closing
Discharging any existing mortgages or liens and ensuring appropriate payments are made, including real estate commissions, fall under the lawyer's purview. They also report to their client and confirm that all seller undertakings with the buyer’s lawyer have been fulfilled.
The closing costs incurred during the real estate closing process are different for purchase and sale. Typically, it is more expensive to purchase property, than to sell. But this also depends on the applicability of land transfer taxes and real estate commissions.
Closing Costs for Purchasing Real Estate
Legal Fees: Buyers need to account for legal fees, which cover the cost of a real estate lawyer reviewing documents, conducting searches, and facilitating the transaction. Legal fees on the purchasing end, are typically more expensive compared to legal fees on the selling end. This is due to additional steps and requirements.
Title Insurance: While not required by law, title insurance is commonly required by the mortgage lender - in other words if you are borrowing money for the purchase, consider it a requirement. Title insurance is a one-time fee and provides insurance coverage against issues like fraud, title defects, and survey inaccuracies.
Mortgage-Related Costs: Buyers with a mortgage may face additional fees, such as mortgage application fees, appraisal fees, and mortgage default insurance if the down payment is less than 20%. These fees tend to increase with Private Mortgages.
Land Transfer Tax: In Ontario, buyers are required to pay a Land Transfer Tax (LTT), calculated as a percentage of the property's purchase price. To calculate LTT click here. For properties in Toronto, an additional Municipal Land Transfer Tax (MLTT) applies, effectively doubling the tax amount. The MLTT is also based on the property's purchase price in the same structure as the provincial LTT.
Adjustments: These are costs prepaid by the seller that the buyer must reimburse, including property taxes, utility bills, and condo maintenance fees, prorated to the closing date.
Closing Costs for Selling Real Estate
Legal Fees: Sellers also incur legal fees for services like preparing and reviewing the sale documents and facilitating the transaction. Again, typically (but not always) less than on the purchase side due to the tasks and process involved.
Real Estate Commission: This is typically the largest cost for sellers, involving a percentage of the sale price paid to the listing real estate agent - and repaid to the cooperating real estate agent. The rate would have been negotiated in your Listing Agreement and is subject to HST.
Mortgage Penalties: If the seller is breaking their mortgage agreement early, there might be penalties involved. This cost varies depending on the mortgage terms and is typically equivalent to 3-months of interest payments.
Discharge Fees: Sellers with a mortgage must also need to pay fees to discharge the existing mortgage upon selling the property. This is more commonly seen when discharging a Private Mortgage.
Adjustments: Sellers may receive reimbursements for prepaid costs like property taxes or utility bills, which are pro-rated and credited from the buyer.
In both buying and selling in Ontario, it's important to budget for the various costs in order to avoid any surprises during the closing process. Working with a knowledgeable and experienced real estate lawyer, can help in accurately estimating and understanding these expenses.
Common Challenges and Delays in Real Estate Closings
Despite meticulous planning and preparation, challenges and delays can still arise during the closing process. Obstacles include financing issues, title defects, and unmet conditions. Being aware of these potential setbacks and having a plan in place to address them can help minimize their impact on the closing process.
Title Issues: Problems with a property's title, such as liens, easements, or unresolved ownership disputes, can significantly delay a closing. These issues require thorough investigation and resolution before the transaction can actually proceed.
Financing Difficulties: For buyers, obtaining mortgage approval is a critical step. Delays or last-minute issues with mortgage financing can postpone the purchase closing date. This can occur due to changes in the buyer’s financial situation or discrepancies in the property appraisal.
Document Errors or Delays: Inaccuracies in paperwork or delays in receiving necessary documents can stall the process. This includes errors or omissions in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, mortgage documents, or other legal paperwork.
Compliance and Zoning : Zoning issues, non-compliance with local regulations, or last-minute legal disputes can emerge, requiring additional time to address and resolve - often with the required assistance of slow moving municipalities.
In Ontario, the real estate closing process involves several detailed steps for both buyers and sellers, guided by real estate lawyers. Buyers' lawyers review the purchase agreement, conduct title searches, and manage mortgage details, while sellers' lawyers focus on addressing requisitions and preparing necessary documents.
Closing costs vary for buying and selling, with buyers generally incurring more expenses like legal fees, title insurance, and land transfer taxes. Sellers typically pay legal fees, real estate commissions, and mortgage-related charges.
The process can face challenges such as title issues, financing delays, and document errors, which require careful navigation and experience to ensure a successful real estate transaction. It's important to work with an experienced real estate lawyer to ensure your rights are protected and you're placed in the best position to succeed.
If you have questions about the real estate closing process or any other real estate legal matter, we're here to help. As real estate law specialists, our mission is to provide the clarity and direction you need to protect your property rights.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Real Estate Lawyer
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Happens on Closing Day for the Buyer?
On closing day, the buyer finalizes the purchase, signs all necessary documents, pays closing costs, and receives the property's title.
What Happens on Closing Day for the Seller?
The seller signs the property transfer documents, hands over the keys, and receives payment for the property on closing day.
Do You Receive the Funds on Closing Day?
Yes, the seller typically receives the funds on the closing date once all documents are signed and the transaction is finalized.
How Long Does It Take to Close a Real Estate Deal in Ontario?
Closing a real estate deal in Ontario usually takes between 30 to 60 days, depending on various factors like financing and inspection.
What Happens a Few Days Before Closing?
A few days before closing, final inspections occur, mortgage details are confirmed, and the buyer receives a closing statement for review.
When Do I Get the Keys on Closing Day?
Buyers typically receive the keys on closing day after all paperwork is signed, funds are transferred, and the sale is officially recorded. Traditionally, this is late afternoon to early evening.
What is a Title Search?
A title search is an examination of public records to determine and confirm a property's legal ownership and find out if there are any claims or liens against it. This process is crucial for ensuring a clear title before a real estate transaction.