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  • What is a trust agreement in Real Estate?

    What is a trust agreement in Real Estate?

    In most cases, the beneficial and legal owners of a property are one and the same, but they can be separate individuals through a “trust agreement”.  Simply put, a trust agreement is a legal tool to separate the legal and beneficial owners of the property.

    What are “legal owners”?

    The legal owners are the persons named in the deed/transfer when the property is transferred and registered with the land registry. If there is a mortgage taken out for the transaction, it would be under the legal owner’s name.

    What are “beneficial owners”?

    The beneficial owners are persons who receive the profits from the property, whether that be rents or funds from the sale of the property.

    Why separate legal and beneficial owners?

    On occasion, a property may have separate legal and beneficial owners.

    For example, a member of the family may want to ensure they are entitled to the proceeds of the property, but don’t want to be named in the mortgage. This can occur for various reasons. 

    Perhaps they don’t qualify for a mortgage, or their inclusion would lead to adverse effects with respect to the mortgage.  In other cases, an individual may want to ensure that their common-law partner would be entitled to the proceeds of a property he/she purchased prior to their relationship. 

    What are some important facts to consider with respect to a trust agreement? 

    A trust agreement can be drafted by a real estate lawyer, but on most occasions, you may need to retain a separate lawyer then the lawyer who handled your transaction.  Reason being is that most real estate lawyers who close your property transaction also represent the lender/bank in the transaction.  This can put the lawyer in conflict since a trust agreement may be detrimental to the lender’s claims to the property.

    A trust agreement does not override any family law statutory obligations. This means that if the legal owner is liable for any spousal/child support or any other family law obligations, they have the right-of-way to the proceeds of the property, no matter who the beneficial owner is.   

    Lastly is whether the property is jointly owned or through tenants-in-common. If the property is jointly owned, the trust agreement must be accepted and signed by all joint tenants. However if it is owned by tenants-in-common, an owner can form a trust agreement outlining the terms specifically for his/her share of the property.

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  • Realtors: Real Estate Transactions Amidst COVID-19

    Realtors: Real Estate Transactions Amidst COVID-19

    Will COVID-19 impact closing your Real Estate transactions?

    A hotter than ever spring housing market coupled with a reduction in mortgage rates is responsible for record-breaking numbers of Real Estate transactions in markets across Ontario.

    As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, it may soon become a reality that your clients and perhaps you will face a quarantine much like we’ve already seen occur in China, Italy, Iran and other countries.

    This may present unexpected challenges in closing your Real Estate transactions that may impact your clients and your business. Here are the most common questions we've received along with potential contingency plans to minimize disruption to your business and your client’s lives.

    For Firm Deals, Are Clients Obligated Too Close?

    Most firm residential real estate transactions in Ontario require the buyer or seller to close the transaction by a specific date as set out in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS). 

    Most residential transactions do not usually include a force majeure clause that typically excuses a party from performance if the failure to perform is due to an event beyond the party’s control.

    Therefore, in most cases, clients will still be obligated to close their transaction despite any challenges that may be beyond their control.

    For any deals moving forward, consider incorporating a COVID-19 delay clause into your real estate transaction to protect you and your clients from a delay that is caused directly by COVID-19 disruption (such as a quarantine). This clause should be written and reviewed by a lawyer as it will need to be specific, clear and enforceable.

    Can Closings Be Delayed As a Result of COVID-19?

    Closing can be delayed if an amendment to the agreement of purchase and sale (APS) is signed and agreed upon by all parties.  If you or your clients foresee the need to postpone or change your closing date, the sooner amendments can be signed by both parties, the better. 

    Given the uncertainly, it is important to proactively communicate with your clients, lawyer, and the co-operating agent to ensure the closing is proceeding as scheduled.  Knowing the flexibility of your buyers and sellers can make a big difference in putting together potential amendments.

    What if Clients Cannot Make it to Sign Closing Documents?

    To close the transaction, your clients will have to attend a lawyer’s office to sign closing documents.  Some lawyers may offer at-home signing, which may not work in the case of a full quarantine.

    At Deeded, we have started to leverage remote signing and ID verification technology to allow clients to sign documents via video conference from the comfort of their home.  This service is available to qualified clients. Please reach out to us at hello@deeded.ca if we can help with your closing.

    What if Lenders Are Disrupted By Coronavirus?

    Most employers are taking serious measures to protect their employees and prevent further spread of the virus in the workplace. As such, lending operations may face delays and logjams caused by shortages of staff.

    Mortgage instructions from the lender are required to close a deal that requires financing and a delay in getting mortgage instructions may mean a delay in closing. It is best to be proactive, working with your partners on the deal to ensure that:

    1. 1. Clients sign mortgage commitments - Some lenders may offer remote options to sign paperwork.
    2. 2. Mortgage instructions are sent to the lawyer's office at least 2-3 days prior to closing

    What if The Land Registry Closes Down?

    Most title insurance policies include Gap Coverage that insures both purchasers and lenders against losses due to intervening registrations on title between the date of closing and the date of registration.

    This means that in the event that online registration is no longer available, or land registry offices experience delays or closures due to COVID-19, real estate transactions can close on time and funds and keys can be released to the respective parties.

    What if My Brokerage is Closed?

    Some brokerages have advised agents to work from home and may take additional steps to close their office during the pandemic and have deal staff working from home. This may impact your ability to take deposit cheques and collect commission cheques in a timely manner.

    For deposits, you can ask that it be wired or directly deposited into your brokerage's trust account instead of taking deposits as cheques. Payment for commissions can also be wired/transferred from the lawyer's office to the brokerage and if your broker is already setup to transfer commissions into your bank account, this can avoid any delays and potentially disrupting your cash flow.

    How Else Will COVID-19 impact The closings of my Real Estate transactions?

    The escalating situation with the spread of COVID-19 may impact other parts of your transaction such as your lawyers, mortgage brokers, stagers and other key resources.  It is more important than ever to proactively communicate with your partners and develop a contingency plan. 

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  • Real Estate Legal Documents – What You’ll Need to Sign at Closing

    Real Estate Legal Documents – What You’ll Need to Sign at Closing

    Before your transaction closes, you'll meet with your Real Estate Lawyer at a signing appointment to review and sign your closing real estate legal documents. This is the time when you'll sign the required documents to make your purchase, sale or refinance transaction official.

    The excitement of getting to the finish line tends to make us all a little impatient or uninterested in the fine-print legal details.  While your real estate lawyer will explain the purpose of all real estate legal documents and what they mean in plain English, we put together some further insight into what to expect when you are at the signing table. 

    Charge (A Fancy Name For A Mortgage)

    If you are taking out a mortgage to buy your new home,  the Charge/Mortgage is the document registered against your home in the Ontario land titles registry.  

    When reviewing the Charge/Mortgage, you may notice in the “Chargor(s)” section reference to whether or not you are a spouse. The reason for spousal information being includes, even if they might not be on title of the property is because a spouse must provide his/her consent to the mortgage.

    Consent To Also Act For Your Bank

    When your transaction involves a mortgage, your lawyer will generally act for both you and your mortgage lender (or lenders in some cases) to save you the cost of paying for two lawyers.

    While this isn’t the norm to the rules in most other legal transactions, where each side retains their own representation, an exception to the rule permits a lawyer to act for both parties only if he/she is given permission from both parties to do so.  

    When signing real estate legal documents for the purchase of your new home, you may come across a document called “Consent to Act…”.  By signing this document, you give your lawyer permission to act for both you and your bank.

    Acknowledgments And Directions

    Acknowledgments and directions are documents signed by you and used by your lawyer as written confirmation that you have reviewed certain documents and that the information is accurate. A direction states that you authorize and direct your lawyer to take certain action. Your lawyer may require you to review and sign an acknowledgment and direction before your mortgage or the transfer of title is registered. Your lawyer may also require you to review and sign a direction for the transfer of funds from your bank to be held in trust by him/her until the amount is paid to the home seller.

    Transfer of Title

    The Transfer of Title is a document that is registered with the Ontario land titles registry.  In a nutshell, this document directs the transfer of interest in the home.

    Joint Tenants or Tenants In Common

    If you’re buying your home with other people such as a family member or a spouse, you may be asked if you’d like to be registered as “Joint Tenants” or “Tenants in Common”.

    With joint tenancy, you co-own 100% of the home with the other people on title and no one person owns a specific share of the home. For example, spouses may purchase a home together as joint tenants because, in the event that one of the spouses passes away, 100% of the ownership of the home then automatically belongs to the surviving spouse.  

    On the other hand, with tenancy in common, you own a specified share of the home and may be able to transfer or sell that share to others. Upon death, the share of the home will pass to the tenant in common’s heirs.  Often times in co-ownership or investment properties the owners are considered tenants in common.

    Statement of Adjustments

    The statement of adjustments likely gets the most questions during the signing appointment.  Put simply, a statement of adjustments summarizes the monies that will be exchanged, less any adjustments (deductions in the favor of the buyer or seller). 

    The statement of adjustments is similar to your monthly bank statement, as it has a list of various debits and credits with a balance at the end. In the buyer’s statement of adjustments, the debits represent amounts already paid, such as the deposit, while the credits include the purchase price of the home and any fees or utilities the seller has prepaid. The total amount in the credits column (purchase price + prepaid items) minus what’s in the debit column (the deposit) is what you owe to the seller on closing day.

    If you are buying a home, you’ll likely see your purchase price, plus any additional fees, less any deposits you’ve put down and funds that are coming in from your lender.  The balance of the statement is what you’ll need to pay at closing.

    If you are selling your home, you’ll see items such as proceeds from your sale, property tax adjustments, deductions for real estate commissions, and a payout to your mortgage lender, as applicable.

    The more you know, the smoother your transaction will.  Now that you have a better idea of what documents to expect at your signing appointment, taking a few minutes to prepare questions or ask for clarifications is always a good idea.

    At Deeded, we’re committed to making your Real Estate transaction seamless and smooth.  We believe that consumers should be empowered and in control of the most significant purchase or sale they’ll likely make. 

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  • 7 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Lawyer When Buying

    7 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Lawyer When Buying

    If you just firmed up your purchase or sale (Congrats!), you’ll likely need to choose a Real Estate lawyer to facilitate your closing. No matter which lawyer you choose, asking the right having the questions to ask a real estate lawyer before deciding who is going to handle your transaction can make, or break, the entire experience. 

    Here are some questions to ask a real estate lawyer considering them to represent you when buying or selling a house or condo:

    How Long Have You Been Practicing?

    Before hiring a real estate lawyer, it can be crucial to find out how much experience they have in the industry handling residential real estate transactions.  

    A good question to ask is how many transactions they have closed in the course of their practice.

    Although, it is not always necessary to find a seasoned professional with decades of legal work on their resume, finding a fairly experienced lawyer is extremely valuable.  Like any specialists, Real Estate lawyers who exclusively practice in Real Estate are more likely to have a wealth of knowledge and experience that will help with your transaction in comparison to someone who may be practicing in other legal disciplines. 

    What Do Your Closing Feed Include?

    Upon closing, the last thing you want is to be surprised at additional/unexpected closing costs. In addition to legal fees, there can be additional closing costs such as for title insurance, land transfer tax, disbursements and government fees. 

    While sometimes circumstances may lead to additional charges, make sure you know what your lawyer will charge you for legal fees and what they expect to charge on top of legal fees.  

    Things can get confusing as some lawyers may offer fixed fees which combine legal fees, disbursements and other charges into one overall bill, while some may advertise or quote their legal fees and will add additional fees and disbursements.  It is therefore important to ask and understand what an estimated final bill will look like, after legal fees, disbursements and government charges.

    While buying a home has most people strapped for cash as expenses can rack up quickly, the lowest price lawyer isn’t always the best choice.   What may look initially as saving a few hundred bucks can easily turn into thousands in potential additional costs if parts of the transaction aren’t done right.  Make sure to hire a professional who you feel comfortable with.

    Deeded offers transparent pricing so that you know exactly what is included in your legal fees and what to expect in terms of additional fees or disbursements.

    What Should I expect In Terms of Process?

    Buying or selling a home is a major transaction.  It is important to understand the closing process, especially when your lawyer’s office will be in contact, what information or documents they might need from you, and when you should expect to get updates on the progress of your transaction.

    Since every lawyer works in a slightly different manner, it is important to clarify and understand your role in the process in order to ensure a smooth closing.

    What is My Title Insurance Premium?

    Most purchase, sale and refinancing real estate transactions will include a title insurance policy in order to protect you and your lender from an array of issues that can occur after closing.  

    Title insurance costs vary depending on the price, location and type of property you are purchasing or refinancing and can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand,  so knowing what to budget in additional costs can save you from surprises down the road.  

    Our calculator estimates your title insurance premiums, but rates can vary greatly so please check with your lawyer to ensure you are getting the most accurate premiums for your transaction.

    How Much Land Transfer Tax Will I Pay?

    Land transfer tax applies if you’re purchasing a property.  The amount of taxes paid can be significant and vary depending on the price of your property, what municipality it is located in, and whether you’re eligible for rebates such as a first-time buyer rebate.   

    Land transfer taxes can be the most significant part of your closing costs, so it is important to know what to expect up-front.   

    Our land transfer tax calculator can estimate what you’ll be expected to pay, but it is important to verify any details with your lawyer and see if you’re eligible for any rebates.

    Are There Tax Implications For My Transaction?

    While your Real Estate lawyer likely doesn’t provide tax advice, your real estate transaction may trigger tax implications such as HST payable on a new construction home or an investment property, all the way to income taxes or capital gains taxes in certain cases.  There are also situations where you may be eligible for certain tax rebates to offset taxes payable.

    Nobody likes to be slapped with an unexpected tax bill or even worse, a re-assessment, so understanding what your transaction may trigger may be a question you’d want to ask your real estate lawyer or accountant.

    When and Where Will The Signing Take Place?

    Signing typically refers to having a meeting with your lawyer to sign the requirement documents for your Real Estate transaction.  Signing typically takes place a few days prior to closing and may involve all registered owners (whether you’re buying or selling), attending the signing appointment.

    Because life gets busy with work, travel and the occasional vacation, it is important to know when and where you're signing will take place.  If you won’t be in town or have other commitments that prevent you and other registered owners from attending a signing appointment (usually during business hours), your closing may be delayed.

    Deeded offers at-home signing appointments as part of our service.  This means we come to your home at a convenient time (including evenings and weekends) so you don’t have to take time off work or travel to a lawyer’s office to attend your signing appointment.

    In summary, choosing your Real Estate lawyer with care and asking the right questions up-front can prepare you for a smoother home closing, reducing surprises, and get you into your home faster.

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  • Mortgage Refinancing – What is it and What’s The Process?

    Mortgage Refinancing – What is it and What’s The Process?

    Mortgage refinancing is the process of paying off an existing loan and replacing it with a new loan with different terms than your original mortgage.

    There are many reasons why home owners choose to refinance a mortgage. The most popular reasons being converting from a variable rate mortgage to a fixed rate one (or vice-versa in some cases), consolidating debt from higher interest loans or credit cards or accessing some of the equity in the home to finance larger purchases such as renovations, a new vehicle, or a down payment on an investment property. 

    Refinancing is often confused for having a second mortgage, but in reality, the two are very different.  A second mortgage is in addition to your first and does not replace it as a refinancing would.  Mortgage refinancing gives the borrower new money that can be used to pay off the original mortgage, ideally with better terms.

    Should I Refinance?

    The decision on whether or not to refinance should be based on your financial goals. For example, if you’re looking to improve your monthly cash flow, take advantage of lower interest rates to reduce your payment or consolidate debt, refinancing may be a viable option.

    Unfortunately, every situation is unique so consulting with a mortgage professional who can calculate potential costs, penalties and legal fees for your refinance is always a smart decision before proceeding.

    I’ve Decided To Go Ahead, What’s The Process To Refinance?

    If you decide to take advantage of refinancing, your mortgage professional or current lender will need to process an application, similar to the one you did when you first got your mortgage.

    This means you'll need to be prepared with documents, paperwork, and an appraisal that supports your application.   

    1. 1. Depending on your credit and other variables, your mortgage professional will likely ask for proof of income, such as pay stubs, T4 slips and employment letters.  
    2. 2. You will likely need to have an appraisal done on your property to determine the current value and thus what you’ll be able to borrow.  Your mortgage professional can order an appraisal on your behalf, but you may be on the hook for costs of the appraisal
    3. 3. You’ll need to hire a lawyer to put together required documentation, title insurance and arrange for signing the new mortgage documents.  

    Deeded can help with your mortgage refinancing and make closing your refinancing a breeze.

    How Can Deeded Help?

    When it comes to refinancing your mortgage, our team at Deeded makes the process as easy as possible so you can "close" and access your money quicker.    

    Our team helps you understand your obligations, can expedite the process and help you navigate the legal documents that needs to be signed before funds are released to you. 

    With Deeded you’ll never need to leave your home to close your mortgage refinancing deal. We’ll come to your home and office, making it convenient and stress-free.

    We also made our fees for refinancing your mortgage clear and transparent so we can avoid surprises at closing and leave more money in your pocket.

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  • Hello New Home, Hello New Property Taxes.

    Hello New Home, Hello New Property Taxes.

    Buying a home is exciting.  Taxes are not. While this is the topic that everyone loves to ignore, buying or selling a home in Ontario does come with quite a few tax implications.  The more you know about them, the less stressed you’ll be down the road. 

    In this blog, we’ll dive into:

    • • Land transfer taxes
    • • Property taxes
    • • HST (Harmonized Sales Tax)
    • • Capital gains taxes
    • • Income tax implications

    Land Transfer Taxes

    In Ontario, the buyer is on the hook for a land transfer tax payment that is due on closing.  Given the average property price in your market, this can be a significant amount that you’ll need to plan for.  Here’s how it’s calculated.

    Ontario Land Transfer Tax:

    • • 0.5% of the value of the property up to and including $55,000
    • • 1% of the value which exceeds $55,000 up to and including $250,000
    • • 1.5% of the value which exceeds $250,000 up to and including $400,000
    • • 2% of the value between $400,000 and $2,000,000
    • • 2.5% for amounts exceeding $2,000,000, where the land contains one or two single family residences

    If you’re buying in the city of Toronto, you’ll also be paying a second land transfer tax .

    Toronto Land Transfer Tax

    • • 0.5% up to and including the first $55,000
    • • 1% of the value which exceeds $55,000 up to and including $250,000
    • • 1.5% of the value between $250,000 and $400,000
    • • 2% of the value between $400,000 and $2,000,000
    • • 2.5% of the value over $2,000,000

    Before you start creating excel spreadsheets and dusting off your calculator, our land transfer tax calculator will help you figure out what you will owe. 

    If you’re a first time buyer, you’re in luck (pending some conditions, of course,  you may be eligible to receive a refund for all or part of the land-transfer tax – click here for details of the Land Transfer Tax Refund Program.  Our calculator factors in any first-time buyer rebates, so once again, no need for number crunching on your part.

    Property Taxes

    Your property taxes will vary based on your municipality.  

    If your property is in the city of Toronto, you can check how much property taxes are by using the City of Toronto property tax calculator..  Other municipalities may offer similar calculators on their website. 

    The amount of your property tax is calculated on the phased-in property assessment value of your property, determined by MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation). You can read all about how MPAC determines the value of your property here.

    MPAC property assessments are usually lower than current market value so if paid $1,000,000 for your house, MPAC’s assessment probably has you paying taxes on a much lower assessed value.

    Depending on what you sign up for, property taxes are due in either two instalments (March and July); 6 instalments (March, April, May, July, August and September); or in 11 instalments (due every month except January). 

    Increases In Property Values Will Impact Your Property Taxes

    Do you plan to finish the basement or do a significant renovation, like an addition to your home?  You will likely be re-assessed for tax purposes and your taxes will increase.

    New Construction Homes

    MPAC usually assesses newly built homes within 6 months.  In the meantime, you may be responsible for paying the taxes on the land value of your property.  The most important thing to remember is that once the MPAC assessment is completed, the city will bill you for property taxes owed from the date of possession.   For most people, it’s a shock when they get their first property tax bill that is a lot larger than what they had expected. A good tip is to always set money aside to cover your first property tax bill.

    HST

    To say the HST is confusing is an understatement.  Here’s how we boil it down.

    Resale Homes

    • • HST is NOT payable on resale properties in Ontario
    • • If a residential property is used partially as commercial, HST would be payable on the percentage that was used as commercial
    • • HST may be payable on a highly renovated home (but rebates may apply)

    Vacant Land

    • • HST is not payable on vacant land (personal use only)

    Newly Constructed Houses and Condos

    • • HST applies to new construction homes
    • • Federal and provincial rebates are available in some cases
    • • Most builders will factor the HST and the HST rebate into the purchase price of the home, though some will not, so if you’re buying pre-construction, make sure to ask and have your lawyer review the agreement.
    • • To qualify for the rebate from the builder, the home must be the primary residence of the purchaser or one of their immediate blood-relatives and you’ll be required to submit proof if an audit ever occurs.
    • • If you are buying a property as an investor, you don’t qualify for the rebate automatically. Plan to pay the builder the full amount of the HST on closing and you can apply for a rebate after you’ve signed a one-year lease agreement with a tenant.  This basically means that you may be fronting the HST for a few months until the rebate is processed and approved.

    Commercial Properties

    • • HST is payable on commercial properties

    REALTOR Commissions and Legal Fees

    • • All REALTOR commissions are subject to HST
    • • HST is payable on real estate legal fees

    When closing your purchase or sale with Deeded, we apply the appropriate taxes to your closing and can help guide you through complex processes such as filling for an HST tax rebate or refund.

    Capital Gains Tax

    When you earn money on an investment, you’re subject to a capital gains tax on the amount you’ve profited.  

    The good news is that if your home is your principal residence (the home you live in), you won’t have to pay capital gains taxes.  You can only have one principal residence and may be asked to provide proof that you live in the house if audited.

    If you’re selling an investment property, even if a part of it has been rented in the past, you may be on the hook for capital gains tax that will be paid on 50% of the gain.  For example, if you bought a condo at $500K, rented it out for a couple of years and later sold it for $750K, you will pay taxes on $125K (50% of the $250K you made, less selling expenses).   

    Your taxes will be calculated after the capital gains have been added to your income for the year so if make $100K and followed our example, another $125K in income will be added to your overall income, putting you at a higher tax bracket.

    It is important to involve your accountant or financial planner before buying or selling an investment property to account for the tax implications according to the latest rules from the CRA>

    Income Tax

    If you are flipping your home or if that’s your full-time job, you’ll be taxed on the full income you make between what you bought and sold the property for, less your expenses.

    If you’re going to be a landlord and rent your property out, the rents you collect will be added to your income, less expenses that are associated with the rental property (like property taxes, interest on your mortgage, advertising, renovations, etc.)

    If you’re in the business of flipping houses, the CRA will want a piece of the action in the form of income tax. If flipping is your main gig or forms a substantial part of your income, the CRA will consider it active income and you’ll be taxed at the usual income tax rates.

    Our final take is this. Taxes can be complicated and every situation is different.  The best you can do is become aware of tax implications and plan ahead for them. There’s no worse situation than having to come up with an extra $50K at closing because there’s something you missed or were not told along the way.   

    It is always worth a brief conversation with your lawyer and accountant before you buy or sell a property to understand your obligations and tax liabilities.  You’d be amazed by how much a 10 minute conversation can save you.

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