In addition to obtaining a written quotation certificate for all legal costs (including both fees and legal disbursements, such as one can obtain from this website), there are three questions that should be asked when shopping for a real estate lawyer:
- What percentage of the lawyer’s work is residential real estate (not commercial real estate or other types of law)?
NOTE:If the answer is less then 90%, keep looking since this is the age of specialization and efficiency (getting the best service at a competitive cost). If the lawyer’s work is at least 90% focused on the subject matter, you can be reasonably assured that he also has law clerks and secretaries who are concentrating 100% on residential real estate which will enhance a client’s ability to address any possible issues and get the job done, particularly if special problems arise when processing the real estate transaction through to its ultimate conclusion (getting a key for the purchaser and closing funds for the vendor on closing day).
2. Is the lawyer’s office ready to close the transaction ELECTRONICALLY?
NOTE:This can be an important concern since (as of December, 2003) the entire area surrounding Metro Toronto (including HAMILTON-WENTWORTH, HALTON, PEEL, YORK REGION and DURHAM REGION) has electronic land registration capabilities in the applicable Land Registry Offices. If the property being bought or sold can be registered electronically and the lawyer’s office is equipped to close electronically, the client’s advantage is that the lawyer will be able to get a key (for purchaser) or closing funds (for vendor) earlier on the closing day than was traditionally the case when the lawyer would have had to travel to the registry office and get into a time consuming line-up in order to complete the purchase/sale on the day of closing (which typically would result in key or closing funds not being available to clients until about 5 p.m. on the closing day). Think about it! Is the lawyer’s office ready to close electronically?
3. Does the lawyer automatically arrange and obtain title insurance for all purchasers (the cost of which is included in the written quotation certificate for legal fees and legal expenses)?
NOTE:The Law Society of Ontario requires all lawyers, when acting for purchasers, to inform clients about title insurance and its advantages. The problem is that all lawyers now order title insurance (at least some of the time) when the lawyer becomes concerned about a matter regarding an inadequate survey or a question of title. If the overall total cost of legal fees and legal expenses is no greater when a purchaser is provided with title insurance, the question is why not provide it to all purchasers since such insurance:
- is a certification of title that is broader than the lawyer’s traditional title opinion;
- is covering frauds and forgeries in the chain of title as well as after closing (which a lawyer does not cover when giving a title opinion);
- is no fault, no deductible insurance;
- is issued (once it is obtained) for the entire period of ownership by the buyer (including transfer of title to a spouse or to heirs through a will) for the price that was paid for the house (and up to double the price paid, as the house increases in value over time which is something that a basic traditional lawyer’s opinion cannot do).
TITLE INSURANCE should be provided to every purchaser and notjust when a lawyer perceives a potential survey or title concern (particularly if there is no practical additional cost to the consumer in overall total legal fees and legal expenses), the concern being: what if a potential problem exists but is not perceived by the lawyer at the time of completing the purchase!