Gayle E. Hiscocks Discusses a Lawyers Role in Buying & Selling a Home


Buying a home can be very stressful. The expense in the purchase itself as well as the risk that the house might not be what it initially appeared to be when we first viewed the home can raise our anxiety levels. While we may put our faith in a Realtor or a Home inspection, the fact is that nobody can guarantee that the home will be free from defects or costly repairs down the road. All we can do is hope for the best and go through the proposed property with a keen eye as the phrase “buyer beware” is ever present in purchasing a home.

A lawyer’s role in the buying and selling of a home is one of assisting the client with the “conveyance” of the property. That means that they attend with the client to ensure that the transfer of the property is done correctly and that all deposits and money transactions (including tax arrears, registration and payout of mortgages and commissions) are completed. If the buyer requires bank documents to be completed then the legal fees will be increased as opposed to a cash deal or a simple transfer.

The legal fees do not include any legal advice with respect to any defects later discovered within the property. Nor do they include any legal work after the keys have been provided to the new owner and the money has been delivered to the seller. Once the “conveyance” is complete, unless there is a holdback for work needed to be completed which is contained in the purchase contract and agreed to by the parties, the file is effectively closed. If a problem arises after that, such as a defect that legally should have been disclosed or a problem that could have been uncovered by some due diligence by the purchaser, the lawyer is not obligated to assist the client in their pursuit of relief. In most cases we will assist the client in tying up loose ends and prodding the opposing side to complete their obligations, however in the event that a legal dispute arises the client needs to retain a lawyer who practices in the area of litigation to assist them in effecting their remedy. The reason is that these are two very different areas of law; one is to convey property and the other is to resolve a legal dispute between parties. In many cases a lawyer will be versed in both areas, but remember – we were not there when the deal was made and did not see the home as it was originally presented. So when we are assisting with the conveyance we are only dealing with the legal work needed to effect the buying and the selling of the home. If a dispute arises we change from our conveyance hat to our litigation hat in order to assist our clients. Luckily this does not happen often and for the conveyance portion we can eliminate some of the stress that is associated with a home purchase. In any event don’t be afraid to ask us any questions during the signing of your documents. That too will eliminate any anxiety associated with a home purchase.

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