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Questions to Ask a Real Estate Lawyer

When you retain an Edmonton real estate lawyer you’re rarely looking for someone who will guide you through a single transaction. You are instead looking for a partner who will be with you through all the real estate transactions you might make over a lifetime.

This is especially true of those who wish to invest in property: people who want to fix and flip, who want to lease property and gain tenants, who want to create vacation property, or even those who want to develop commercial retail and office space that they can lease out to other companies. Your real estate lawyer will become a vital part of your business team!

Here are some good questions to ask a real estate lawyer for the basic types of real estate transactions you might conduct. If you think of your own questions, jot them down! You can ask them during your initial consultation.

What to Ask When Buying a House

Alberta law requires the involvement of a real estate attorney for both buyers and sellers whenever a home purchase takes place.

You need a real estate attorney the moment you have a Purchase Contract. Your realtor sends the contract to your lawyer. Here are some questions to ask when buying a home.

  • Are there any unacceptable clauses in the Purchase Contract? Can we negotiate to have them removed?
  • Do you see any pitfalls or problems with this house purchase, such as restrictions on the title? How can those restrictions be cleared?
  • What conditions or contingencies should I put in the purchase offer?
  • Is there room for negotiation in this offer? What should I be trying to negotiate?
  • Will you go over the real property report with me?
  • What are my closing costs?
  • What do I need to bring to closing and where do I need to go?
  • What will my property taxes be?
  • What do I do after I sign the paperwork?
  • When do I get the keys?

Alberta law requires you to have your own real estate lawyer when you purchase a home.

What to Ask When Selling a House

Alberta law also requires you to have your own real estate lawyer when you sell a home. Here’s what you need to ask.

  • What representations and warranties should I be making in the Purchase Contract?
  • What disclosures must I make before selling the house?
  • Is my current real property report up-to-date and accurate?
  • What fixtures should I identify in the Purchase Contract?
  • When do I vacate my property?
  • When and where do I sign the closing agreement?
  • How and when do I cancel my property taxes?
  • When should I stop paying homeowner’s insurance on this property?
  • When and how will I receive the proceeds of the sale?
  • How will my current mortgage be resolved?
  • Is the buyer’s offer reasonable? Is there room for negotiation? What should I be negotiating?

If you have tenants you should also be asking what the rights of your tenants are, and what you need to do to legally sell the property.

What to Ask When You Inherit Property

Inheriting a property can greatly increase your wealth, but only if you handle it correctly.

  • What are the tax implications of keeping this home?
  • What are my rights and responsibilities if I choose to rent out the home?
  • I have inherited this property with other family members. What are my rights, responsibilities, and options?
  • Is there an existing mortgage on the home? If so, what do I do about it?
  • What are the tax implications of selling this home?
  • Are there any liens or title issues I need to resolve, and if so, how do I resolve them?

If you have inherited the home with other family members every co-owner should get their own real estate lawyer to represent their interests. This is not an adversarial move! What is right for you might not be right for them, and you’ll need a savvy negotiator to help you arrive at an agreement everyone can live with.

What to Ask When Buying Commercial Property

A real estate lawyer can help you conduct the proper due diligence on any commercial property you hope to buy.

  • Is the building in good condition?
  • What do I need to do about existing tenants in the building?
  • What are my rights and responsibilities upon assuming control of this building?
  • Is the title clear?
  • Is there room for negotiation with the seller? What should we be negotiating?
  • Are there hidden liabilities or environmental issues that could create problems for me later on?

Your attorney can help ensure your commercial property purchase is a sound business decision.

What to Ask When Selling Commercial Property

Your attorney’s negotiation skills will be particularly useful during the selling process, and no doubt they’ll have specific guidance for you during the process. Here are a few questions to ask.

  • What needs to be adjusted prior to closing?
  • Are there problems with the title that will need to be resolved?
  • Are there other problems or bars to closing that will need to be cleared?
  • What are the rights of tenants during the selling process?
  • What disclosures are required?
  • What kind of deal can we negotiate?

What should you ask before hiring a real estate lawyer?

Start by asking about the real estate lawyer’s credentials and track record.

For example, one of the most important duties a real estate lawyer will have will be to help you negotiate favorable deals on your real estate transactions. So ask what kinds of deals your prospective attorney has negotiated in the past. How did they solve tough legal problems and sticky situations?

Another question worth asking is the percentage of the practice that’s devoted to real estate law. Ideally you want someone who spends the variety of their time practicing this form of law because you’ll need an expert who can guide you through the legal problems and challenges that can arise when purchasing, leasing, or selling real estate. You should also ask how many clients they serve at a time…you’ll want to know your real estate lawyer has time for you.

You should ask about this attorney’s litigation track record as well. Real estate litigation does happen. When it does you need someone who is prepared for trial and capable of standing up and going to battle in court.

Finally, you need to know about the attorney’s legal fees. While we don’t advise choosing the cheapest attorney we can find it’s important to know how much you are expected to pay, and when. You can control legal costs, and most reputable attorneys will give you a range of expected costs for any given potential transaction. For example, buying or selling a home is usually routine enough to get a reliable range. The exception is litigation, during which anything can happen.

Need help?

Attorneys Bruce and Graham Neill have decades of experience helping Edmonton residents with real estate law. They’re award winning attorneys who are committed to helping you with your real estate needs.

Call (780) 488-4152 to get started today.

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.

Please note: The information provided on this website is Not Legal Advice. The information may or may not be accurate. The information is for discussion purposes only. Reliance upon any information provided would not be grounds to advance a claim against Merchant Law for providing any advice. In order to get a formal legal opinion upon which you may rely about any specific fact scenario, you would have to first retain the services of a lawyer and request a formal legal opinion.