FAQs

Some of the most commonly asked questions about real estate law in Alberta are covered on this page, but keep in mind that residential real estate law terminology can be highly complex and it is not advisable to proceed with any residential property transaction without first consulting with an experienced real estate lawyer.

Barr Picard can help you whether you are buying or selling a home for the first time or have completed many real estate transactions in Edmonton or Alberta. Get started by Contacting Us today.

FAQ: 

When should I seek legal advice on the purchase or sale of a home?

You should speak to a property attorney before you make any offer to purchase. An offer to purchase is a contract and without the benefit of legal review you may unknowingly agree to terms that are not in your best interest. Your property attorney at Barr Picard knows what needs to be reviewed before you sign documentation. A typical short list of top issues are:

• Name of purchaser should include name and or nominee in case the lender requires another person to qualify for the loan
• Is title to the property subject to any limitations such as easements, restrictive covenants, and encumbrances such as mortgages or builder's liens?
• Has the property been inspected by a qualified building inspector?
• Can you obtain the necessary mortgage financing?
• What are the property taxes?
• Ensure vendor is providing current Real Property Report

Within the province of Alberta, what needs to be included in an offer to purchase?

The following documentation must be submitted:

• The names of the vendor (seller) and purchaser (buyer)
• The legal and municipal title of the property
• The purchase price as well as anything that is included in the purchase price, such as drapes, appliances and carpets.
• Any disclosures, such as information on the state of repair of the property, warranties about land use, or warranties about the property conditions related to some aspect of the sale, such as obtaining an acceptable building inspection report
• Any time requirements. For example, the offer to purchase may include how much time the vendor will have to accept the offer
• Insurance information, such as what time is covered at what cost and who pays the insurance
• Guidelines on how a default will be handled if one of the parties pulls out of the transaction
• Provision for the signatures of the vendor and purchaser, their witnesses and the real estate agent
• GST and any other taxes

Can I put conditions on an offer to purchase?

Yes, there are many circumstances where you may be interested in making a purchase, but only if certain conditions are met. For example, you could indicate that you are only willing to proceed if one or more of the following conditions are met:

• Sell your existing home first
• Get your lawyer to approve the terms of offer
• A building inspection report finds no unacceptable issues
• Bank approval of your financing

What conditions should my Offer to Purchase include?

Make your offer subject to conditions for your own protection, such as subject to financing, building inspection and lawyer’s approval. Also ensure you ask for a recent Real Property Report with Compliance Certificate. And finally, make sure the offer includes all major appliances!

What is a mortgage?

When a bank or mortgage company lends you money to buy a home, you are required to sign documents that are registered on the title to your home promising to repay them. In the agreement, you are called the "mortgagor" and the lender is called the "mortgagee". If you fail to pay your mortgage, your home will be repossessed by the mortgage holder to repay the loan, and, in some cases, personal judgments against you. There are many types of mortgages. It is important to obtain legal advice before making any decision on a mortgage.

Is there more than one way to register ownership?

Yes. The most typical approach is to register the title to a home as "joint tenants". In this scenario, when one tenant dies the other inherits the property. One joint tenant cannot leave the property to another person in the will. The other common approach is "tenants in common". In this scenario, each tenant owns an equal interest in the property and has equal rights to occupy the whole of the land. Either tenant can dispose of his or her own interest in the land by selling it or leaving it to someone in a will.

Other options are possible, but you should consult with your lawyer before making any decision.

Can the buyer and seller use the same lawyer?

Yes. But they must agree to do so in advance and both must agree that if they have any conflict, both must seek separate legal counsel.

Does Barr Picard Knisely offer discounted rates when it represents both the buyer and seller?

Yes. Contact us "Online"

How are legal fees for real estate legal services calculated?

You will find there is a wide variance in the fees charged by law offices in Edmonton offering legal advice on property transactions. Choosing Barr Picard means you will receive in writing a complete review of legal fees, any other fees and charges, payments to a third party (disbursement) and GST.

What costs make up my bill?

There are 3 major items that make up your legal bill: disbursements, GST and legal fees. Disbursements are the hard costs such as registration fees at Land Titles Registry, tax searches and other payments to third parties. GST is applicable to fees and most disbursements. Legal fees compensate our Real Estate team for their diligent review and signing of your Real Estate documents for and with you!

Aside from legal fees, what other fees apply when you buy a home?

There is no fixed schedule. For example, it is not mandatory to order a building inspection. However, it is highly recommended and well worth the additional fee. A property attorney at Barr Picard can recommend a building inspector, just one of many valuable added services we offer to assist our clients.

Here are some other fees that may apply:

• Title insurance
• Appraisal fees if requested by your bank or mortgage
• Building inspection fee
• Fee for a real property report
• Registration fee issued by the Land Titles Office
• Adjustment for taxes, depending on the timing of your purchase
• Fee for fire insurance
• GST if you are purchasing a new home (GST does not apply to previously owned properties)
• Fees related to the acquisition of a new mortgage
• Interest charges, which are applicable if there is a delay between when you get your mortgage advance and when you need to make payment to the seller

What do I need to sell my property?

Assuming you have already selected a qualified realtor, the most common issue that comes up for sellers is having a current Real Property Report. If your report is old, it may still be good so long as there has been no changes to your property, like a deck or shed being constructed. If you do not have a Real Property Report and do not wish to pay for one, then you will have to get the buyer to agree to Title Insurance in lieu of a Real Property Report. The cost of obtaining a report is approximately $400.00 to $500.00 (plus $102.00 for the City of Edmonton compliance certificate) and takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to obtain from a certified Alberta Land Surveyor. The cost of Title Insurance is a little bit less expensive.

What documents do I need if I’m selling my home?

When selling your home you will need to provide a recent Real Property Report and Compliance Certificate to our office. Unless you have made changes to the property (additions such as, fences, decks, garages, sheds, patios) this document will show your property is acceptable by City laws.

When do I receive the proceeds of a sale?

Same day as closing, if possible. However, the time frame varies, depending on what lawyer you retain to handle your real estate transaction. There is also the potential for delays that have nothing to do with your lawyer. For example, there could be a delay in the Land Titles Office that results in you receiving your proceeds a few days later than expected.

Who pays the real estate agent's commission?

The seller pays the commission.

If I am selling a property, when do I need to meet with my lawyer?

It is best to meet with your real estate lawyer about 10 days before the Completion Date.

What happens when someone has Dower rights?

The spouse must sign transfer in case of sale and mortgage. This situation is governed by an Alberta provincial statute called the Dower Act, which defines the right of a spouse to continue to live in the matrimonial home during his or her lifetime. It was created to prevent a spouse from selling the matrimonial home (or homestead in the case of a farming couple) without the consent of the spouse. Dower rights do not arise except with a spouse.

What is a restrictive covenant?

The developer of land has the right to restrict how the owner uses the land, size of house, landscaping, etc.

What is an easement?

This gives an individual or corporation the right or privilege to a limited use of lands that belong to someone else. For example, home owners grant easements that provide a limited right of way to utilities, a necessary step to install utility services such as water lines.

What is an encumbrance?

It is a financial cost that needs to be paid. It may also include other restrictions such as an easement or a covenant.