A Guide to Real Estate Lawyers in Canada

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What You Should Know

  • A real estate lawyer is required when buying or selling a home in order to register the transfer of property with your province’s land registry office
  • Legal fees are typically a flat fee that ranges from $700 to $1,500
  • You will also need to pay your lawyer for any disbursements, such as land transfer tax and registration fees

What Does a Real Estate Lawyer do?

A real estate lawyer, also known as a real estate attorney, deals with the legal aspects of a real estate transaction, from preparing and reviewing documents to the closing of the transaction. Buyers and sellers will have their own real estate lawyer that will represent them in a transaction, and depending on which side of the sale that they are on, their roles and responsibilities can differ. Here’s what a real estate lawyer does for a home buyer and for a home seller:

Real Estate Lawyers: Buyer vs. Seller Responsibilities

Real Estate Lawyers for BuyersReal Estate Lawyers for Sellers
Review the purchase agreement and other documentsPrepare and/or review the purchase agreement and other documents
Arrange for title insuranceAssists with negotiations
Check for liens and possible issuesResolve any outstanding legal issues
Facilitates closingFacilitates closing

Role of a Real Estate Lawyer for Buyers:

Real Estate Lawyer Infographic

Real estate lawyers play a valuable role for home buyers to make sure that their best interests are represented when purchasing a home. This includes making sure that the deal is fair, that what you are purchasing is what you thought you were purchasing, and arranging for services such as title insurance.

  • Reviewing the purchase agreement and other documents
  • Documents and contracts make up a large part of a real estate transaction. The real estate purchase agreement, called an agreement of purchase and sale in Ontario or a contract of purchase and sale in BC, outlines the terms of the purchase. Besides just the home price and important dates, the purchase agreement includes details about the property being purchased and conditions that might be attached to the sale. The seller’s real estate agent will commonly be the one that prepares the purchase agreement, usually from a template. For buyers, a real estate lawyer will review the purchase agreement to make sure that there aren’t any redflags or issues. If there are any, your lawyer will ask for an amendment to be made to the purchase agreement.

    The purchase agreement is important since it makes up the entirety of the transaction. The purchase agreement defines the terms of the sale, including what you are buying, while the original home listing and MLS description has no bearing at all. For example, a MLS listing might state that the home has a backyard. If the purchase agreement does not specifically state that the property being purchased includes the backyard, then the backyard is not included in the home purchase. As a written contract, the purchase agreement also supersedes any verbal promises that the seller may have made. For example, perhaps the home seller promised to give the buyer a $10,000 discount off of the home price. If the purchase agreement does not reflect this discount, then this discount never existed.

  • Arrange for title insurance
  • While title insurance might not be required by law, it can still be a good idea to purchase title insurance to protect your home purchase. Your mortgage lender may also require you to purchase title insurance in order to get a mortgage with them. Having title insurance protects you from leftover liens, title defects, and title fraud, all for a one-time cost.

    A buyer’s real estate agent will help arrange for title insurance to be purchased from a title insurance company. You may also choose to purchase title insurance yourself by going to an insurance agent, an insurance broker, or directly to a title insurance company. However, some title insurance companies might only deal directly with legal professionals, such as lawyers, notaries, law clerks, and legal assistants..

  • Check for liens and possible issues
  • While title insurance protects you from certain issues with the property’s title, a buyer’s real estate lawyer will still check the property’s records. This includes checking for any liens, such as an unpaid mortgage or other outstanding debt from the previous owner, as well as known title defects. It also includes reviewing your property survey and looking for any encumbrances, which can include restrictive covenants, easements, and municipal by-laws that might restrict your use of the property. A buyer's real estate agent might also conduct an off-title search. This will find issues that won't show up on a property's title, such as unpaid property tax and unpaid utilities, by contacting the relevant municipality and utility companies.

  • Facilitates closing
  • A buyer’s real estate lawyer will handle the final closing with the seller’s real estate lawyer. In an escrow arrangement, you’ll send your down payment to your real estate lawyer. Your real estate lawyer will also receive the rest of the money to purchase the home from your mortgage lender. This money will be held in trust and will be released to the seller’s lawyer once the keys to the home have been delivered to the buyer’s lawyer. The home buyers will meet with their lawyer to receive the keys to the home.

    During closing, a buyer's real estate lawyer will also be responsible for reviewing the statement of adjustments and registering the transfer in your province’s land registration system or land registry office.

    Law Tiles

    Role of a Real Estate Lawyer for Sellers:

    For home sellers, a real estate lawyer makes sure that the transaction goes smoothly by fixing or mitigating any potential legal issues that might come up, helping to avoid expensive delays or additional costs.

  • Prepare and/or review the purchase agreement and other documents
  • The seller’s real estate agent, known as the listing agent, will be the one that drafts and prepares the purchase agreement. Oftentimes, the purchase agreement is a standardized contract written up from a real estate template. It is important for a real estate lawyer to review the purchase agreement to make sure that it is suitable and covers every aspect of the transaction.

    While real estate agents are licensed and can prepare the purchase agreement themselves, it is still a good idea to have a second set of eyes to review the contract before it is sent to the buyer. A lawyer that focuses on real estate law might be able to spot particular nuances with your property, and can include disclosures or conditions that might need to be added to the purchase agreement.

  • Assists with negotiations
  • A real estate lawyer can help with negotiations during the home sale around terms in the purchase agreement. For example, perhaps the buyer wants to add on a large amount of conditions, with some of them being unnecessary and against your best interests. Without a lawyer, you might not be able to personally identify or understand these conditions yourself if you’re not familiar with real estate law. Your lawyer will be able to negotiate conditions and clauses on your behalf.

  • Resolve any outstanding legal issues
  • Maybe a title search brought up encroachment issues with disputed property lines, or maybe you still have liens that will need to be paid. Your lawyer can resolve these issues before you list the home for sale, or make sure that these issues are resolved before closing.

  • Facilitates closing
  • At closing, the seller’s real estate lawyer will hold the keys to the home in escrow. They will be the one that prepares the statement of adjustments and to receive the funds from the buyer’s lawyer. Once the money has been received, the seller's lawyer will first pay off any existing liens, such as a mortgage, unpaid property taxes, or other outstanding debt secured to the property. The seller's lawyer will also pay out real estate commissions from the proceeds of the sale to the listing agent and buyer's agent. The lawyer will then send the remaining amount to the seller of the home.

    How Much Does a Real Estate Lawyer Cost?

    In Canada, real estate lawyers usually charge a flat legal fee for the transaction. This can vary from $700 to $1,500 or more, and depends on whether you are purchasing a home or selling a home, the value of the home, and your location. Some real estate lawyers might charge an hourly rate instead of a flat fee.

    For example, in a 2017 publication of the Canadian Lawyer magazine, the average hourly rate in Canada for a real estate lawyer with less than one year of experience was $200 per hour. This means that if the lawyer needs to spend five hours on your transaction, from reviewing the purchase agreement to handling closing, then the legal fees charged would be $1,000. For real estate lawyers with more than 20 years of experience, the average hourly rate in Canada was $421.

    If you are paying a real estate lawyer by the hour, you’ll be interested in making sure that their time is used as efficiently as possible. This can include making sure that there aren’t any duplicate tasks being done. For example, purchasing title insurance means that the title company will make certain title searches. If you purchase title insurance, your real estate lawyer might not need to make certain municipal title searches, saving them time and saving you money.

    What do legal fees cover?

    Legal fees only pay for the real estate lawyer’s time. At some law firms, the flat fee may also cover certain costs, such as photocopies, postage, and fax costs. Sales tax applies to legal services in Canada. For example, you will need to pay 13% HST in Ontario on the legal fees charged, or 5% GST in Alberta.

    What do legal fees not cover?

    Legal fees do not cover any costs that the lawyer needs to pay to complete the transaction. For example, your real estate lawyer will be the one that will pay upfront for the title insurance premium, land transfer tax, title search fees, and registration fees. These costs are known as disbursements, which your lawyer has paid upfront on your behalf, and you will need to reimburse your lawyer for these costs. Application and registration fees can add up to hundreds of dollars, but in most cases, land transfer tax makes up the largest cost.

    Some common disbursements include:

    • Application fees: Filing an application for a permit or license, such as for zoning and building permits
    • Registration fees: This includes registering a property when transfering the title, and registering encumbrances like a mortgage
    • Land transfer tax: A tax by the local and/or provincial government. In some cases, the buyer’s lawyer may disburse the buyer’s funds to pay for land transfer tax rather than the payment being made out-of-pocket by the lawyer.

    The Law Society of Ontario made changes in 2017 that now require lawyers to advertise all-inclusive prices which include legal fees, disbursements, and other charges, except for government fees (such as for registration), land transfer tax, and certain other costs. Ontario real estate lawyers are also required to state that HST and excluded disbursements are not included in their advertised price.

    Do You Really Need a Real Estate Lawyer?

    While you might not need a real estate agent and can always sell or buy a home without an agent, you still need a real estate lawyer in Canada when buying or selling a home. For example, only lawyers and certain other professionals can access Ontario's Electronic Land Registration System to register the transfer of property and to even search for land property records. This includes licensed lawyers with professional liability insurance that covers the practice of real estate law, licensed land surveyors, real estate agents and brokers, and mortgage brokers. Without a real estate lawyer in Ontario, you won’t be able to register property and purchase a home.

    This is also the case in other provinces. For example, Nova Scotia's property registry can also only be accessed by a real estate lawyer. Lawyers are also required in Alberta, but not necessarily real estate lawyers that specialize in real estate law.

    Besides the fact that a lawyer is required to purchase or sell a home in many provinces, having a real estate lawyer helps to protect your interests in a transaction and ensures that it is legal. A home in Canada can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, while legal fees for a lawyer might cost $1,000 or less. Paying a small fee for peace of mind and for protection should something go wrong is well worth it, especially for high-value real estate transactions.

    Real Estate Lawyers vs Real Estate Agents

    Law Books

    The cost of a real estate lawyer is generally much lower than the cost of a real estate agent. You can work with just a real estate lawyer when buying or selling a home, but you will also be missing out on the services that a real estate agent typically provides. That’s because a real estate lawyer focuses on the legal side of the transaction. A real estate agent is the one that will help find new listings for buyers or list the home and find buyers for sellers. They will also do things such as creating a comparative market analysis, host showings and open houses, and marketing and advertising your home for sale.

    If you have any legal questions or need legal advice, then you will need a real estate lawyer. Real estate agents can’t answer any legal questions if they’re not a licensed lawyer themselves. Being paid a flat fee means that lawyers are also independent of the home’s price and can offer unbiased advice. On the other hand, real estate agents are paid a commission based on the sold price of a home.

    Real Estate Lawyers Near Me in Canada

    Ontario Real Estate Lawyers

    Real estate law is a large and competitive market in Ontario. In fact, the Law Society of Ontario's 2018 Lawyer Annual Report found that 15% of Ontario lawyers practice real estate law. That's more than the 11% of lawyers that practice criminal law and the 10% that practice family law.

    Top Areas of Practice for Ontario Lawyers

    Area of Practice% of Ontario Lawyers
    Corporate Law20%
    Real Estate Law15%
    Civil Litigation (Defendant)12%
    Civil Litigation (Plaintiff)11%
    Criminal Law11%
    Family Law10%
    Wills and Estates Law6%
    Employment and Labour Law6%
    Administrative Law6%
    Securities Law4%

    Source: Law Society of Ontario's 2018 Lawyer Annual Report

    For a lawyer to be considered to be specialized in a specific area of practice, they will need to have at least 30% of their work in that area. In Ontario, 20% of lawyers are specialized in more than one area of practice.

    Specialization of Ontario Lawyers

    Specialization% of Ontario Lawyers
    Specialized in one area of law75%
    Specialized in more than one area of law20%
    Not specialized in an area of law5%

    Source: Law Society of Ontario's 2018 Lawyer Annual Report

    Toronto Real Estate Lawyers

    Many of Canada’s largest and most prestigious law firms can be found in Toronto. In fact, eight out of ten of Canadian Lawyer magazine’s top 10 Ontario law firms are found in Toronto. While some of these law firms may specialize in commercial real estate law, many law firms also provide legal services for residential real estate.

    Here are some real estate law firms and lawyers in Toronto:

    Real Estate Law Firms in Toronto

    • Torkin Manes LLP
    • WeirFoulds LLP
    • Blaney McMurtry LLP
    • Minden Gross LLP
    • Fogler Rubinoff LLP
    • Lerners LLP
    • Gardiner Roberts LLP
    • Loopstra Nixon LLP
    • Costa Law Firm
    • Mills and Mills LLP
    • Cowan & Carter Law Firm
    • LD Law LLP
    • Levy Zavet LLP
    • Diamond & Diamond Lawyers LLP
    • Schwarz Law Partners LLP
    • Nava Wilson LLP

    Real Estate Lawyers in Toronto

    • Eran Gevantschniter
    • Zinati Kay
    • Angat Saini
    • Alexander Hu
    • Lorne and Bonnie Shuman
    • Oksana Miroutenko
    • Chintan Patel
    • Jay Teichman

    Examples of Real Estate Legal Fees in Toronto

    Law Firm/LawyerPurchaseSaleRefinance
    Madaans LLP$1,499$1,199$1,299
    Costa Law Firm$1,100$1,050$750
    Axess Law$999$799$799
    Jay Teichman$875$800$600
    Law Booth$895$695$695

    Note: Legal fees displayed are advertised prices as of November 2021

    Mississauga Real Estate Lawyers

    Toronto real estate law firms and lawyers often operate in Mississauga as well. The runner-up for Canadian Lawyer magazine’s top 10 Ontario law firms, Pallett Valo LLP, is based in Mississauga.

    Here are some real estate law firms and lawyers in Mississauga:

    Real Estate Law Firms in Mississauga

    • Aastha Lawyers
    • JMK Law
    • Nanda & Associate Lawyers
    • GK Law
    • Suma Law
    • Pereira Walter Lawyers LLP
    • Mehdi Au LLP
    • Prudent Law
    • Zagazeta Garcia Lawyers LLP
    • Dhillon Murthi Law
    • Madaans LLP
    • JSM Law
    • KS Legal

    Real Estate Lawyers in Mississauga

    • Tarunjeet Gujral
    • Junaid Kayani
    • Barbara Kaye
    • Janine Richards

    Brampton Real Estate Lawyers

    Here are some real estate law firms and lawyers in Brampton:

    Real Estate Law Firms in Brampton

    • Gahir Law Office
    • Rutman Law
    • Baidwan & Baidwan Lawyers LLP
    • Axess Law
    • Kala Law Firm
    • Everstone Law
    • Kaur Law
    • TSC Law
    • Dale Streiman Law LLP
    • Longfield Law
    • Stephen Holmes
    • Thapliyal & Rai Law Firm

    Real Estate Lawyers in Brampton

    • Niroosan Vivekanantharajah
    • Matthew Abel
    • Anita Perera
    • Sumeet Sood
    • Kiranjeet Sangha
    • Jack McCulligh

    Ottawa Real Estate Lawyers

    Here are some real estate law firms and lawyers in Ottawa:

    Real Estate Law Firms in Ottawa

    • Kelly Santini LLP
    • Merovitz Potechin LLP
    • Mann Lawyers LLP
    • LMS Lawyers LLP
    • Tierney Stauffer LLP
    • McGuinty Law Offices
    • KMH Lawyers
    • Nelligan Law
    • Stikeman Elliott LLP
    • SKSM Law
    • TDJ Law Ottawa
    • Guertin Lawyers-Avocats
    • Farber Robillard Leith LLP
    • Brazeau Seller Law
    • Shaikh Law Firm
    • Taggart Law Office

    Real Estate Lawyers in Ottawa

    • Jacques Robert
    • Valentin Erikson
    • Bryan Delaney

    Examples of Real Estate Legal Fees in Ottawa

    Law Firm/LawyerPurchaseSaleRefinance
    TDJ Law$1,295$880$945
    Shaikh Law Firm$999$900$900
    Guertin Lawyers-Avocats$795 new home
    $995 resale home
    $695$895
    Taggart Law Office$850$750-

    Note: Legal fees displayed are advertised prices as of November 2021

    Alberta Real Estate Lawyers

    Calgary Real Estate Lawyers

    Here are some real estate law firms and lawyers in Calgary:

    Real Estate Law Firms in Calgary

    • Kahane Law Office
    • Shivji Law
    • McLeod Law LLP
    • LeClair Thibeault
    • Litco Law
    • Shim Law
    • Reich Law
    • DBH Law
    • Osuji & Smith Lawyers
    • One80 Law Group
    • Mergen Law LLP
    • AB Law
    • Roszler & Associates
    • West Legal

    Examples of Real Estate Legal Fees in Calgary

    Law Firm/LawyerPurchaseSaleRefinance
    Kahane Law Office$1,175 - $2,375*$875 - $1,350*$1,000 - $1,550*
    West Legal$1,349 - $2,299*$799 - $1,249*$1,099 - $1,699*
    Roszler & Associates$550 - $675$600$625

    Note: Legal fees displayed are advertised prices as of November 2021

    *Varies based on home value

    Edmonton Real Estate Lawyers

    Here are some real estate law firms and lawyers in Edmonton:

    Real Estate Law Firms in Edmonton

    • Giardino Law
    • Verhaeghe Law
    • Heritage Law Offices
    • Healy Law
    • Safi Law Group
    • Henning Byrne LLP
    • Ogilvie
    • Masuch Law LLP
    • Prowse Chowne LLP
    • Lypkie Henderson

    Real Estate Lawyers in Edmonton

    • Peter B. Mason
    • Jerry D. Kiriak

    Examples of Real Estate Legal Fees in Edmonton

    Law Firm/LawyerPurchaseSaleRefinance
    Safi Law Group$695 - $895$695$695
    Heritage Law Offices$695 - $795$695$695
    Healy Law$495$495$495
    Jerry D. Kiriak$495$495$495

    Note: Legal fees displayed are advertised prices as of November 2021

    British Columbia Real Estate Lawyers

    Vancouver Real Estate Lawyers

    Here are some real estate law firms and lawyers in Vancouver:

    Real Estate Law Firms in Vancouver

    • McEwan Partners LLP
    • Terra Law
    • Harper Grey LLP
    • Michael Golden
    • Boughton Law Corporation
    • Yetmans Law Corporation
    • Spagnuolo & Company LLP
    • Alexander Holburn Beaudin + Lang LLP
    • McLarty Wolf Litigation Lawyers
    • Winright Law
    • Bell Alliance LLP
    • Veritas Law
    • JarvisLegal Law Corporation
    • Jiwa Law Corporation
    • Peak Law Group LLP
    • Lakes, Whyte LLP
    • Singleton Urquhart Reynolds Vogel LLP

    How are Lawyers Licensed in Canada?

    In Canada, lawyers are licensed and can practice law by passing their province's bar examination. Lawyers are admitted to the bar through their province's law society. Law societies serve as the province’s legal regulatory body. The exception to this is Quebec, which has two regulatory bodies.

    Each provincial law society will have a lawyer directory that you can search to see if your lawyer is licensed, if they are a practicing lawyer, and if they are restricted from practicing a specific area of law.

    Law Societies in Canada

    Real Estate Lawyers vs. Notaries

    For a real estate transaction, a notary public will conduct generally the same tasks as a real estate lawyer would. A notary would review the purchase agreement, conduct a title search, and register the transfer. A notary public also usually charges the same legal fees as a real estate lawyer.

    The main difference between a lawyer and a notary is that a notary cannot represent you in court, while a real estate lawyer can. If a dispute turns into litigation and legal action that makes its way into court, you will need to hire the services of a real estate lawyer. However, a notary can always refer you to a lawyer should you need one.

    Contract Amendments vs Addendum

    There might be amendments or addenda required for a purchase agreement. The difference between them is that amendments modify the existing purchase agreement, while an addendum adds onto the purchase agreement.

    For example, perhaps the closing date needs to be modified. A real estate lawyer would use an amendment to modify the original date. Addendums might include disclosures that need to be added to the contract, such as those disclosing defects about the property and repairs already completed.

    The calculators and content on this page are provided for general information purposes only. WOWA does not guarantee the accuracy of information shown and is not responsible for any consequences of the use of the calculator.