When home buyers or sellers find out too late that they aren’t aware of some of the finer details in their agreement.
In the excitement of signing an offer to buy or sell a home or condominium, it’s often tempting to blindly sign the agreement presented by the real estate agent without reading it carefully or having it explained by a real estate lawyer.
Lately I have noticed an increasing number of instances where the buyers or sellers find out when it’s too late that they weren’t aware of some of the finer details in the agreement.
Last week I asked a number of my colleagues in a Facebook group if they had experienced the same thing, and many of them responded with similar experiences.
At the top of my list in recent weeks have been instances where sellers have agreed to sell condominium units they do not own. Many older condominiums in Ontario have registered legal descriptions which do not match the number on the door. Suite 1401, for example, may be legally registered as unit 1 level 13 (rather than 14) since the condominium plans have a 13th level but the floors in the elevator do not.
Last week I reviewed a client’s agreement where the unit and level numbers for the suite, the parking and the locker in the agreement did not match the registered floor plans and the numbers in the status certificate. It’s important for agents to verify the numbers before listing the property for sale.
Most offers these days allow buyers the option to pay the purchase price on closing using the Bank of Canada’s Large Value Transfer System. This was replaced two years ago by Lynx, a system used by the bank to facilitate electronic transfer of high-value funds.
Payment of HST can create problems. One of my clients recently signed an offer on a commercial property improperly prepared on a residential form which included the HST in the price instead of adding it on top. Responsibility for the buyer’s $300,000 loss will eventually be decided by a judge.
When a property has a residential tenant who is supposed to move out before closing, a clause only requiring the seller to give the proper eviction notice does not guarantee vacant possession.
A detailed listing of chattels, which are moveable items, and fixtures, which are permanently attached to the property, is often a source of confusion and dispute in purchase agreements.
Agreements should also include a detailed listing of rentals like furnaces, air conditioners, hot water heaters – and how much a buyer has to pay for rents or a buyout.
Another boilerplate clause in almost all agreements allows the agents to post interior photos of the house or condominium on the internet forever. This clause should be explained to buyers to confirm whether or not they agree with it.
Condominium offers should also specify who is responsible for special assessments levied after the agreement is signed but before closing.
Several colleagues reported to me that they have seen incorrect condominium fees and incorrect lot sizes in purchase agreements.
The takeaway here is that purchase agreements should always be reviewed by a real estate lawyer before they are signed or before any conditions are waived.