Non-Residents’ Legal Guide to Purchasing Real Estate in Canada
Non-residents considering purchasing real estate in Canada need to plan for a number of issues beyond the standard closing requirements.
Canadian lawyers are required to verify the identity of their clients before they can act on their behalf or accept any funds for the purchase of a property. Client identification is typically conducted face-to-face when clients present identification such as a driver’s license or passport.
If you are coming to Canada to search for your house or to open a bank account, it is a good idea to select and meet with the lawyer who will complete the property purchase on your behalf at the same time so that they can complete the necessary identification process. They will then be ready to act for you when you have a deal in place.
If you cannot meet with a Canadian lawyer face-to-face, we can provide you with a form that can be completed by a lawyer or notary in your home country. Once completed and returned, we will be able to represent you on a real estate purchase after we have satisfied our conflict check requirements. You can also consider appointing a Canadian-based power of attorney that is authorized to manage your affairs in your absence.
Paying for the property
If you are taking out a mortgage on the property most Canadian banks will require you to provide a down payment of 35% or higher. These funds typically need to be with the bank a minimum of 30 days before closing. Banks will also require you to have house insurance in place before they finalize the mortgage.
If you are planning on paying for the property entirely in cash, the funds for the purchase should be transferred to your lawyer well ahead of the closing date as large sums can take time to be processed, approved and accepted for international transfer.
Closing the sale
If you have a Canadian lawyer it will not be necessary for you to be in Canada at the time of the closing. Depending on your home country, you may be required to have a local notary public assist with the completion. Signing the closing documents can be done by scan and email. Electronic signatures are permitted in Ontario.
Tax issues when selling the property
When sold, investment properties in Canada are subject to capital gains tax. Non-residents selling their Canadian real estate are also subjected to withholding taxes when the sale is complete. In most instances, non-resident owners will want to consult with an accountant at the time of the sale to arrange for the taxes to be paid and for the necessary income tax returns to be filed. In some circumstances, it may be advantageous to speak with an accountant before purchasing the property to determine if any tax strategies can be put in place that will help save you money at the time of the sale. We would be happy to introduce you to accountants that are familiar with the issues faced by non-resident buyers of Canadian real estate.
Selling a home – services performed by your lawyer
There are a number of issues which we will address for you in order to ensure a smooth transfer of your property to the purchaser. These tasks include:
- Review and complete the draft deed which formally transfers the property from you to the purchaser.
- Prepare the statement of adjustments for the purchaser’s lawyer. The purpose of the statement of adjustments is to calculate the precise amount that will be owed at closing. Adjustments will be made for the various payments that affect your property, including taxes.
- Write to your mortgage company to determine the exact amount owing on the date of closing.
- Prepare and electronically register the necessary discharge of mortgage.
- Perform a subsearch of the property. This outlines any existing mortgages and other instruments which are registered on the property.
- Answer the letter of requisition from the purchaser’s lawyer and discuss with you any potential problems that could delay the closing.
- Oversee the execution of all the necessary documents.
- Instruct the purchaser’s lawyer on how to transfer the funds from the sale. In most circumstances separate cheques are requested and made payable to your mortgage company, our firm in trust and you.
- Payout the mortgage, the real estate commission, outstanding property taxes, utilities, etc.
- After closing, advise the City of Ottawa, Enbridge and Hydro One of the change in ownership of the property.
- Report to you.
What are the additional costs when selling a home?*
When you are selling your home there are a small number of additional expenses. These are:
- Subsearch of Title - $25.00–$40.00
- Execution Certificates - $23.00–$57.50
- Registration of Discharge - $74.72
- LSUC Levy - $65.00
- Tax Certificate - $68.00
- Office Expenses $120.00–160.00
* The fees and disbursements quoted apply only to residential home sales and are subject to change without notice.
Who Contacts the Utilities?
In advance of closing you will need to contact all utility companies who supply services to the property being sold and advise them that a final reading will be required. They will likely require the date of closing in order to schedule the final reading.
MORE Residential Real Estate FAQs
Here are links to some other most common questions we receive:
- A guide to our services when you are purchasing a home
- A guide to our services when you are selling a home
- When should I contact my lawyer and what info will they need to complete my purchase?
- Handling utilities and insurance when purchasing or selling a home.
- Title insurance: the basics
- What new home buyers should know about Tarion Warranty Corporation
Still have questions? Please contact a member of ou residential real esate team. We'd be pleased to help.