How do you get to your home?

Road 2For most of us who live in cities, the answer is, well, I pull up to my driveway from the city street. This isn’t always, the case though; some city dwellers have different access, and many rural properties do.

There are different ways that you could access your property. If you have an island, then obviously you are looking at water access, but even land access can be complicated. You could have a shared laneway with your neighbour, so that you both own the laneway and you use it to pull into a parking space at the back of your house. You could have a registered easement or right-of-way over your neighbour’s property in order to access your landlocked property. Or you could have an unregistered right-of-way over a roadway that has been used for decades but was never formalized.

How you access your property will dictate what types of searches we need to do when you buy, and what types of documents we need to obtain to protect that right of access. Because the worst case scenario is that you can’t get to that house, and that you don’t find out until after you buy.

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If you’re looking to buy on the water, be sure you really are

WaterfrontBarrie is the gateway to one of the most popular cottage areas in Ontario, which means that there are a lot of people driving through my city every Friday on their way to their vacation home. Sometimes, those cottages are a short walk from a lake or river; sometimes, they are right on the water. Or are they?

It’s extremely important if you are thinking of buying a waterfront property to be sure that you are actually on the water. Sometimes, it can appear that you own right up to the water’s edge, when in fact you don’t.

The most important thing you can do if you are buying a cottage is to have a proper search done before your offer is firm, and to insist on a survey. These will show, for example, whether there is a shore road allowance between you and the water, or whether the municipal or provincial government owns the water’s edge.

A cottage can be a little slice of paradise. But you have to check to make sure.

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Time for a walkthrough

Walk 2It’s quite common when you buy to have the right for a few more visits to the house before closing. One of the best times to do one of those visits is the day before or day of closing.

It’s not uncommon for me to get a call from a client the day after they move in about something that is damaged, or that they got to the house and there is a huge amount of junk left. Going close to the closing lets you see where the seller is at with packing up, so that you can have a sense of whether the house is likely to be empty by the next day.

If you get the chance, a close-to-closing walkthrough is great protection.

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When do I get my keys?

KeysHere’s a companion to my post from two weeks ago: if you are buying, when do you get to start moving in?

This is a question that doesn’t have a great answer, because it really depends on a lot of things. First, who is your mortgage with, and have you gotten them everything they need? We can’t buy without money, so a lot depends on what time it comes in. Related to that, we also need your down payment. If you are a first-time buyer or got bridge financing, then we will have it either in advance or at the same time as your mortgage. If you are selling, then we are stuck until your sale closes.

Finally, a lot can depend simply on how busy the other lawyer’s office is. We can’t register the purchase until the seller’s lawyer confirms receipt of the money, and if they are having a busy day, they may not be able to do that right away.

Generally, plan on getting your keys sometime in the afternoon, and look at it as a bonus if it happens earlier.

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When do I need to move out when I sell?

Moving truckThe short answer: as soon as the deal is closed. Many people have the mistaken idea that they have until midnight, or until 6pm, but neither of those is true. Once the transfer is registered, you are technically trespassing if you’re still there.

The long answer, however, is that many sellers aren’t quite out at closing because they’re moving to a new house, and most buyers are understanding as long as your packing is in progress and you are getting the house empty.

When you sell, try to be packed and ready to go, because once that transfer happens, you need to get moving.

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What do I need to have ready to sell my house?

Stack of paperIf you are selling, there are some things that would always be helpful to have handy, both for your realtor and your lawyer, to ensure a smooth closing:

  1. Most recent tax bill. This is helpful to a buyer, and required for your lawyer to apportion the property taxes between you and the buyer.
  2. Most recent utility bills. This helps a buyer understand how much it would cost to carry the house.
  3. Survey, if available. If you don’t have one, as I mentioned last week, do not agree to provide one. You would be best to determine before you list if you have a survey, and to be sure it is a survey, so that you know whether to agree to provide one.
  4. Any warranties that go with the house that you have agreed to provide. If it’s in the offer, make sure it’s either left in the house for the buyer or brought to the lawyer.

Selling your house can be a much smoother process if you have everything ready to go.

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Survey to be provided

Land surveyWe see a lot of documents in our office that are presented as surveys, but are not surveys. It is only a survey if it is stamped and signed by an Ontario Land Surveyor; if that is not what you have, don’t agree to provide a survey to a buyer. Also be careful about agreeing to provide a survey that shows the current location of all buildings and structures, because unless you built the house yourself, it is likely to only show the lot lines and not the house. You don’t want to be stuck getting a new survey made unless you truly want to provide that for the buyers.

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When does your spouse need to consent to a sale?

Wedding rings 2The short answer: when they are actually a spouse.

There is a lot of confusion about who counts as a spouse in Ontario. For the purpose of consenting to the sale of a matrimonial home, however, you only need consent if you are legally married. A common law spouse is not a spouse for the purpose of a matrimonial home, and can’t block the sale.

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When is the right time to buy a home?

HouseHere’s a great video to give you some idea of whether to jump into a hot market.

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Tax sales and superpriority liens

Tax timeIt always surprises me when I find out before closing a purchase or sale for a client that there are significant unpaid property taxes. While most people are aware of the requirement to pay them, I think that many don’t realize that municipalities actually have some pretty serious enforcement powers if you don’t pay. In fact, if you are far enough behind, the municipality can actually sell your property out from under you in order to pay the back taxes. This is an extreme solution and doesn’t happen often, but if you are far enough behind, it is a very real possibility.

Another tax collector who can cause havoc? Canada Revenue Agency. If you don’t pay your income taxes, or HST if you are in business, they can assert what is called a superpriority lien against  your house. This means that, even if you got a mortgage before your taxes became due, they can claim their money before your bank gets paid. Often, this results in extreme difficulty selling your house – especially since they don’t have to actually register the lien and you may not know until days before closing.

The bottom line? Pay your taxes, all of them, and if you’re behind, always let your lawyer know.

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