Real Estate Buying Guide

Buying Real Estate in Ontario: A Comprehensive Guide

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on buying real estate in Ontario, Canada. Ontario’s real estate market is diverse and dynamic, catering to various preferences and budgets. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or an experienced investor, understanding the buying process in this province is essential.

This guide simplifies the complexities of buying property in Ontario, providing a clear roadmap to navigate the market confidently. From budgeting and financing to exploring the housing market and handling legal requirements, we cover all aspects to prepare you for your real estate journey in Ontario.

Here are the essential steps to prepare for your real estate journey in the province:

Step 1 – Check your Affordability

Begin by evaluating your financial situation. Calculate your savings and assess how much you can comfortably allocate to a property purchase. Consider your current debt and monthly expenses to determine a realistic budget for your new home. To find out how much you can afford, consider using tools such as Ratehub mortgage affordability calculator.

Step 2 – Find a Realtor

Choosing the right realtor is crucial in your Ontario real estate journey. A qualified real estate agent can make a significant difference in finding your dream home and navigating the complexities of the market. To find the right realtor:


  1. Start by conducting thorough research.
  2. Look for real estate agents specializing in the Ontario market, particularly in your desired location.
  3. Read reviews on online platforms, ask for referrals from friends or family, and real estate association directories are valuable resources.

Interview Prospective Realtors:

  1. Arrange interviews with several prospective realtors.
  2. During these meetings, ask about their experience, local market knowledge, and approach to helping clients find properties.
  3. Assess their communication skills and how well they understand your preferences.

Check References: Request references from the realtors you interview. Speaking with past clients can provide insight into their performance, professionalism, and client satisfaction.

Licensing and Credentials: Verify that the realtor is licensed and a member of a reputable real estate association in Ontario, such as the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA). These credentials ensure that they adhere to industry standards and codes of ethics.

Compatibility: Choose a realtor with whom you feel comfortable and whose communication style aligns with your preferences. A strong working relationship is essential throughout the buying process.

Negotiation Skills: Assessing the realtor’s negotiation skills is critical since they communicate the offers to secure the best deal. Some qualities linked to better negotiation skills are years of experience, the number of transactions, and checking reviews through trusted sources.

Local Market Expertise: A realtor who is well-versed in the local market trends, neighborhoods, and property values can provide invaluable guidance.

Fee Structure: Understand the realtor’s fee structure. Typically, the seller pays the realtor’s commission. However, clarifying any fees or charges you may be responsible for as a buyer is essential.

Selecting the right realtor is a pivotal decision to impact your real estate experience in Ontario significantly. By conducting thorough research and interviewing potential candidates, you can find a realtor who aligns with your needs and goals, making your property search and purchase smoother and more successful.

Step 3 – Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval

For many prospective homebuyers, securing a mortgage is crucial to achieving their homeownership dreams. One of the first steps in this journey is getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Mortgage pre-approval gives you a clear picture of your budget and strengthens your position when making offers on properties. In this section, we’ll walk you through the steps to get pre-approved for a mortgage, empowering you to navigate the homebuying process confidently.

Check Your Credit: Reviewing your credit report is essential before applying for a mortgage pre-approval. Lenders will assess your creditworthiness, so make sure your credit history is accurate and in good standing. Address any errors and work to improve your credit score if necessary by paying bills on time and reducing outstanding debts.

Assess Your Finances: Determine your budget by assessing your current financial situation. Consider your monthly income, expenses, and any outstanding debts. Understanding your financial position will help determine how much you can comfortably afford as a monthly mortgage payment.

Choose a Lender: Research and select a lender that suits your needs. You can approach banks, credit unions, or mortgage brokers. Each has advantages, so compare rates, terms, and fees to find the best fit for your circumstances.

Gather Documentation: Lenders require documentation to assess your financial stability. Common documents include:

– Proof of income (pay stubs, tax returns)

– Bank statements

– Identification (passport, driver’s license)

– Proof of assets (savings, investments)

– Employment history

Organize these documents to streamline the application process.

Complete the Application: Contact your chosen lender to initiate the pre-approval process. You can usually apply in person, online, or over the phone. Be prepared to provide personal and financial information during the application, including details about the property you intend to purchase.

Wait for the Pre-Approval Letter: After submitting your application, the lender will review your financial information and credit history. If you meet their criteria, they’ll issue a pre-approval letter. This document outlines the loan amount you qualify for, the interest rate, and the duration of the pre-approval (typically valid for 60-90 days).

Understand the Pre-Approval: Carefully review the pre-approval letter containing crucial information about your potential mortgage. Understand the terms, interest rates, and any conditions the lender specifies.

Shop for a Home: With your pre-approval letter, you can confidently begin house hunting within your budget. Realtors and sellers often prioritize buyers with pre-approvals, as it demonstrates your seriousness and financial readiness.

Finalize Your Mortgage: Once you’ve found your dream home and accepted an offer, return to your lender to finalize the mortgage application. The pre-approval is an essential first step, but the final approval process involves a more detailed review of your chosen property and additional documentation.

Step 4 – Understand Closing Costs

In Ontario, the costs of buying real estate can accumulate quickly. These expenses can also vary across Canadian cities and provinces. Preparing for these costs is essential when purchasing property, as they represent an additional financial burden in addition to your moving expenses. Closing costs typically range from 1.5% to 4% of the purchase price of your new home, which you will need to pay when your house closes.

The term “closing costs” usually refers to expenses such as Land Transfer Tax, closing lawyer fees, and other expenses (in addition to your down payment) paid when purchasing a property.

Land Transfer Tax

Buying real estate in Ontario might incur various closing costs, among which the Land Transfer Tax is a significant expense. The purchaser pays this tax to the provincial government upon the transfer of property ownership, and its amount is calculated based on the property’s purchase price.

It is important to note that Ontario has two types of land transfer taxes, one for properties within Toronto and another for those outside of Toronto. The tax rates differ, and it’s crucial to consider these costs when planning your home purchase.

Ontario Land Transfer Tax Calculator logo

Another expense to consider is legal fees when buying real estate in Ontario. A real estate lawyer is required to complete specific tasks such as title searches, registration of the deed, and preparation of closing documents, and will charge a fee for their services. Legal fees can vary based on the complexity of the transaction and the lawyer’s hourly rate or flat rate. It’s essential to consider these fees when creating a budget for your home purchase.

Title Insurance

In addition to legal fees, title insurance is another closing cost incurred when purchasing property in Ontario. This insurance policy protects against title defects and other issues that can impact property ownership. The cost can differ depending on the purchase price of the property and the level of coverage required.

Home Inspection Fees

A home inspection is a crucial step when purchasing real estate in Ontario. A home inspection can uncover potential problems with the property that may not be visible during regular viewing. A home inspector will identify any issues with the property before the sale closes, allowing the buyer to negotiate repairs or a lower purchase price. The cost of a home inspection can vary depending on the size and condition of the property. It should be factored into your budget when purchasing real estate in Ontario.

Appraisal Fees

While purchasing a property, lenders typically require an appraisal to determine the value of the subject property while getting a mortgage. The appraisal cost might differ depending on certain factors, such as the location and property size.

Property Tax Adjustments

The property tax adjustments will be calculated and prorated for both parties based on the closing date. Suppose the seller has already paid property taxes in full for the year. In that case, the buyer will have to reimburse them for the portion of the year they will have the property in possession.

Utility and Other Service Fees

The purchaser might have to pay the utility and other service fees such as hydro, gas, water, and cable. Working with your real estate agent and lawyer is essential to understand all the costs associated with your home purchase and to factor them into your budget.

In summary, purchasing real estate in Ontario has various closing costs that can add up quickly. Understanding and planning these costs is essential to avoid surprises during homebuying. Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent and lawyer ensures that you are fully prepared for all the expenses associated with your home purchase.

Step 5 – Choose a Real Estate Lawyer

Real Estate Lawyers handle the Conveyancing of the Property, which includes overseeing the paperwork that transfers the property title to your name, dealing with your mortgage financing, and disbursing the seller’s purchase price. Real estate lawyers review the legal documents and issues related to a transaction, including the legal review of the Agreement of Purchase or Agreement of Sale. It can be beneficial to choose a real estate lawyer before making an offer to purchase to have the opportunity for legal advice.

Selecting the right real estate lawyer in Ontario is pivotal in ensuring a smooth and legally sound property transaction. To make an informed choice, start your search early and seek recommendations from trusted sources, such as friends, family, or your real estate agent. Verify that the lawyer is licensed in Ontario and specializes in real estate law; this expertise is crucial.

You may speak to the lawyer to assess their competence and compatibility with your needs. Inquire about their experience, especially in the specific location where you intend to buy or sell property. Review online client reviews and testimonials to gauge their reputation and client satisfaction.

Understanding the lawyer’s fee structure is essential to ensure no hidden costs. Effective communication and a comfortable working relationship are crucial, so trust your instincts. Consider arranging a consultation to discuss your expectations and requirements in detail.

Ultimately, choosing the right real estate lawyer in Ontario is a significant decision that can significantly influence the success of your property transaction. By following these steps and conducting thorough research, you can confidently select a lawyer who will safeguard your interests throughout the process.

Buying or selling a home can be difficult as it is the most significant transaction one can make in one’s lifetime. Our lawyers work hard to ensure the transaction goes smoothly and on time. Additionally, we assist in understanding the details of your marketing and are always available to you throughout the process. Our legal services in real estate law are of high quality and are provided to both individuals and businesses. We always strive to protect the best interests of our clients, even in the most complex matters. Contact our Ontario real estate lawyer to discuss your needs.

Step 6 – Explore the Ontario Real Estate Market

Navigating the Ontario real estate market is an exciting journey filled with opportunities and choices. To make the most of your property search, follow these essential steps:

Researching Neighborhoods and Communities: Begin by thoroughly exploring neighborhoods and communities within Ontario. Each area offers a unique blend of amenities, schools, transportation options, and lifestyle attributes. Consider proximity to work, schools, healthcare, and recreational facilities. Online resources and consultation with locals can provide valuable insights into the characteristics of different areas.

Identifying Your Priorities: Clearly define your priorities regarding property size, location, amenities, and budget. Understanding your must-haves and nice-to-haves streamlines your search. It helps you make informed decisions when evaluating potential properties.

Working with a Real Estate Agent: Engaging a qualified real estate agent is pivotal in your property search. Realtors have an in-depth understanding of the local market, access to listings, and negotiation skills. They can help you navigate the complexities of real estate transactions and identify properties that align with your criteria.

Viewing Properties and Conducting Due Diligence: Once you’ve identified potential properties, schedule viewings to assess them firsthand. During these visits, pay close attention to property conditions, neighborhood surroundings, and potential issues. Conduct due diligence by reviewing property history, inspection reports, and financial considerations.

Step 7 – Make an Offer

Making an offer on a property is a pivotal stage in your Ontario real estate journey. Here’s a concise breakdown of the process:

The Process of Making an Offer: When you find a property that matches your criteria, you’ll work with your real estate agent to draft an offer. This formal document outlines the price you’re willing to pay and terms and conditions, such as the closing date and inclusions.

Negotiating with the Seller: It’s common for sellers to respond to your offer with a counteroffer. This negotiation process can involve adjustments to the purchase price, closing date, or other terms. Effective communication between your agent and the seller’s agent is critical to reaching an agreement.

Conditional Offers and Their Significance: Conditional offers are specific conditions to be met for the sale to proceed. These conditions include financing approval, home inspections, or selling your existing home. You can typically walk away from the deal without penalties if the conditions aren’t met.

One of the conditions to strongly consider is a home inspection. It involves a thorough assessment of a property’s condition conducted by a qualified home inspector. The inspection covers various aspects, including the structure, electrical systems, plumbing, and more. Homebuyers often hire inspectors to identify potential issues or concerns with the property before finalizing the purchase, ensuring transparency and informed decision-making in real estate transactions.

How Deposits Work in Ontario: When your offer is accepted, you’ll be required to provide a deposit demonstrating your commitment to the purchase. The deposit is held in trust until closing and is usually a percentage of the purchase price. If the deal falls through for reasons specified in the agreement, the deposit may be refunded to you.

Understanding the offer process, negotiation dynamics, conditional offers, and deposits is crucial for a successful real estate transaction in Ontario. Collaborate closely with your real estate agent to navigate this stage effectively.

Role of a Real Estate Lawyer: A real estate lawyer plays a pivotal role in ensuring the transaction’s legality and protecting your interests. They review contracts, conduct title searches, and oversee the closing process. It is recommended to contact a real estate lawyer as soon as possible. A real estate lawyer can start working to protect the purchaser’s interests as soon as they are involved. A mistake or omission in the original Purchase and Sale Agreement can lead to a legal disagreement between the buyer and seller. Obtaining legal advice from a real estate lawyer can avoid these problems.

What information will my lawyer require?

The Agreement of Purchase and Sale: The Agreement of Purchase and Sale is a binding contract between the buyer and seller. It outlines all terms, conditions, and responsibilities related to the transaction, including the purchase price, closing date, and any contingencies. A copy of the agreement is to be forwarded to the real estate lawyer.

Date of Birth: The dates of birth of all purchasers.

Photo Identification: Two pieces of photo identification will be required for each purchaser, such as a driver’s license and passport. A health card is not accepted as photo identification.

Name of the Mortgage Lender: The name of the mortgage lender will be required. According to the mortgage agreement, the real estate lawyer will ensure the lender will have a valid mortgage on the property.

Inspection Report: Your title insurance policy may require a copy of the building inspection report.

Address for Service: The address to be registered on the deed is typically that of the property, but it may differ for investment properties.

Title: The name on the title. The title would be joint title or tenants-in-common if there is more than one purchaser.

Property Insurance: Property insurance must be active on the closing day to get a mortgage. The buyer’s insurance agent must provide a letter confirming the insurance and the lender’s interest in the property.

Closing Funds: Before the closing date, the buyer must ensure that they have enough funds to complete the purchase, which can be through a certified cheque, bank draft, or money order. The funds must cover the remaining balance owed to the seller, land transfer tax, and other necessary adjustments such as property taxes. The buyer’s real estate lawyer will contact them to provide the amount needed before closing.

For most people, purchasing or selling a property might be the most significant investment or financial transaction they would make in their lifetime. While it initiates a vital decision-making and negotiation process for buyers and sellers, a lawyer’s involvement is essential in addressing legal concerns and ensuring that the legal aspect of the transaction is handled correctly. Buying a property might be a complex and confusing process; therefore, having a real estate lawyer while buying a property in Ontario is essential.

While your real estate agent finds you your dream home and negotiates for the best deal, your real estate lawyer will navigate you through the legal process of buying a property. A real estate lawyer can provide valuable guidance and assistance throughout the buying process and can help protect your legal and financial interests. Your lawyer will ensure compliance with the terms of your purchase and sale agreement, the legal transfer of the ownership of the property is completed accurately, and all legal obligations are met as per the law.

Before the Closing

Retaining a Real Estate Lawyer

Retaining a real estate lawyer for your transaction refers to the legal process starting from your initial consultation to closing the transaction and possession of the property. Your purchase and sale agreement will include the purchase price, closing date, and any other relevant terms that both parties have agreed to. Once both parties sign it, your lawyer will receive a copy from you or your real estate agent alongside other relevant documents.

Conducting Searches on the Property

Your lawyer will review the agreement of purchase and sale and related documents, conduct necessary searches on the property title, and perform due diligence. They will also discuss any outstanding claims or debts against the property (if applicable) and other legal issues affecting the title.

Your lawyer might also have to obtain a Tax certificate for the property from the municipality where the property is located to calculate your property taxes. In this case, the lawyer will calculate the tax payment portions of each party based on the closing date. The amount of the tax will be prorated based on the calculation, which will indicate the number of days each party owns the property in the entire year and the amounts to be paid accordingly by each party.

Therefore, if the seller has overpaid for property taxes, the amount exceeding their proper portion will be credited to them; if the seller has already paid it, the buyer will receive a credit towards their purchase price.

Preparing Closing Documents

The lawyer will start preparing the closing documents required to complete the transaction, such as the transfer of title, mortgage documents, and other legal paperwork. They will contact your mortgage broker and lender (if applicable) to receive the necessary documents for your mortgage and financing and to arrange the funding of the mortgage proceeds to the lawyer’s trust account.

The lawyer will also share a statement of adjustments indicating the outstanding shortfall balance you must provide before closing. Finally, the lawyer will prepare all documents for filing in the land registry office on the closing date and book an appointment with you to sign and answer your questions.

Conditions that Must Be Met Before Closing: The Agreement of Purchase and Sale often includes conditions that must be fulfilled before the deal can close. These conditions may involve financing approval, satisfactory property inspections, or resolving outstanding issues.

Title Searches and Land Titles in Ontario: The title to a property is a legal document that outlines ownership rights. A thorough title review is indispensable because it unveils potential issues impacting the property’s ownership, marketability, and value. Here’s why this step is pivotal:

Identifying Encumbrances: Our title review lawyer can review property records to uncover any encumbrances, such as liens, mortgages, easements, or claims, that could affect the property’s clear title.

Ensuring Marketability: A clean title is a hallmark of a marketable property. Our lawyer can review the title and advise if it is free from defects that might hinder its sale or financing.

Mitigating Risks: By pinpointing potential title issues, we provide the opportunity to resolve them before they escalate, saving you time, money, and possible legal battles.

Document Examination: Our Lawyer can review property documents, land records, and historical records to trace the ownership history and uncover any irregularities.

Title Clearing: If issues arise, we can work to clear any encumbrances, whether negotiating with creditors or rectifying errors.

Off-Title Searches: We extend our examination beyond property titles, conducting thorough off-title searches to ensure no hidden liabilities, unpaid taxes, or outstanding debts exist.

Informed Decision-Making: Armed with our comprehensive title review, you can make informed decisions about property acquisition, ensuring that you confidently enter transactions.

What Can a Title Search Find?

A thorough title search is a crucial step in any real estate transaction. It involves examining a property’s historical records, documents, and public records to determine its ownership history, legal status, and any potential issues. Here are some of the critical aspects that a title search can uncover:

Ownership History: A title search reveals the chain of ownership for the property, showing all previous and current owners. This information confirms the current seller’s legal right to sell the property.

Liens and Encumbrances: Liens, mortgages, charges, and other financial encumbrances against the property can be identified through a title search. These encumbrances can impact the property’s clear title and its marketability.

Easements and Restrictions: Easements, which grant specific rights to others over the property (e.g., utility companies), and property use restrictions can affect the property’s potential uses and development plans.

Unreleased Mortgages: Occasionally, a mortgage might not be officially released even after it’s been paid off. A title search can uncover such discrepancies.

Missing Heirs or Beneficiaries: In some cases, a property might have multiple owners, and locating all relevant parties is crucial to ensure a valid sale.

Probate Proceedings: If the property was part of a deceased person’s estate, the title search can reveal if it went through probate and if the necessary legal steps were taken.

Errors in Documentation: Title searches can uncover clerical errors or mistakes in previous documents that could affect the property’s title.

On the Closing Day

On the closing day, the lawyer will conduct another title search on the property to ensure no last-minute claims are registered against the title and the transaction can be processed.

The lawyer will then release funds held in their trust account, send the balance to the seller’s lawyer, and pay any money required per the statement of adjustments. If you purchase a newly built condo, they would also get a copy of the certificate of possession from the New Home Warranty Program.

The lawyer will also arrange all necessary paperwork for the closing and ensure the correct execution of these documents. Once both the buyer and the seller have completed all the required documentation for closing, the lawyer will proceed to record the title deed, effectively transferring ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer for the agreed-upon price.

After the sellers have received the payment from the buyer’s lawyer, they inform their realtor to release the keys. The realtors will then arrange the handover of the keys. Usually, this occurs before noon on the closing date.

If you need more information on purchasing real estate, contact us today and learn how an Ontario real estate lawyer can help you!

The information provided above is of a general nature and should not be considered legal advice. Every transaction or circumstance is unique, and obtaining specific legal advice is necessary to address your particular requirements. Therefore, if you have any legal questions, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer.

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