When is it time to retain a lawyer?

I am in the process of selling my home and am working with a real estate agent. I have owned the home for more than 20 years and I am not familiar with the sales process. When should I involve a real estate lawyer and how do I go about engaging them?

If you are working with a real estate agent, they are your best resource in the initial stages of the sale of your home. There are a host of extremely good, professional realtors working in the market and if your chosen representative has a reasonable amount of experience, you should be in good hands. In particular, realtors are well equipped with the information and wording of standard clauses that need to be included in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. In most cases, you do not need to engage a lawyer until you have a solid deal.

Some vendors and their agents insert a clause that the Agreement is subject to the review of the document by the duly appointed counsel for the vendor. This is an opportunity I gladly embrace as a lawyer, as it makes sure that if there are some questionable issues with the transaction, they can be addressed up front by the lawyer. More often than not, it is the lawyer for the purchaser who ends up reviewing the Agreement for the purchaser. However, it is not unheard of to have the vendor’s lawyer involved up front.

The overriding guidelines for engaging a lawyer we will talk about next week. The guiding rule is to get your lawyer involved at whatever point you feel you need further guidance. Also, more to come with respect to what the different clauses in the contract mean.

Jeffrey Cowan is the principal of Cowan Taylor & McGee and can be reached at jeff@cowanlaw.ca.

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