Real Estate Law

For most of us, our home is the most important investment we will make. At MacQuarrie Whyte, our firm will alleviate the worries of home purchasing, selling or refinancing. Our real estate lawyers in Ottawa ensure that your home investment is not compromised, and that you receive exactly what you expect to receive. We have extensive experience in handling all real estate matters, and in particular residential purchases, sales, and refinancing. We handle hundreds of transactions per year and our lawyers and support staff are thoroughly familiar with all of the intricacies and nuances in any situation involving the acquisition or disposition of real estate.

What is Title Insurance?

This is an insurance policy that insures against problems with title, zoning, building requirements and other defects that might diminish the value of your property. A title insurance policy may give you the option of avoiding more costly compliance searches with respect to building, zoning, work orders, subdivision agreement compliance, taxes, water, and sewerage charges. Another benefit is that an up-to-date survey may not be required. Your lawyer will discuss with you the merits of obtaining a title insurance policy.

For further information on title insurance please visit one of the title insurance companies, either Title Plus or Stewart Title Guaranty Company. We have been quite happy with the service and products offered by TitlePLUS.

What Can You Expect From Us?

As a purchaser, you expect to receive good title to your property, free of any liens or claims of others. You expect the home to meet all municipal, provincial or federal requirements, and we strive to ensure that your expectations are met.

As a vendor, you expect to receive the full amount of the sales proceeds, less any outstanding mortgages, real estate commission or other obligations to be paid out on closing. We ensure that this is done, the closing is handled smoothly, and that you receive your closing proceeds on the day of closing.

What Does the Lawyer do?

In a purchase transaction, working in conjunction with your real estate agent, your lawyer will help you negotiate the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. Typical conditions that are inserted to protect buyers are those relating to financing, building inspection, sale of existing home, and if the property is a condominium, the receipt, and approval of the condominium status certificate.

  • Your lawyer will ensure that any other specific concerns are addressed in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, because if it’s not in writing, an agreement or an understanding is not legally enforceable (in most circumstances).

  • Once the conditions are met, your lawyer will then search the title to ensure that there are no liens, encumbrances (such as existing mortgages) or other title problems.

  • The lawyer “quarterbacks” the transaction for you and ensures that your closing, and all of the closing documentation are prepared and delivered in a timely fashion.

  • You will meet with your lawyer a day or two before closing (or earlier if circumstances warrant) to review and witness you signing all of the closing documents.

  • The actual registration of the deed (called a “Transfer”) and the mortgage (called a “Charge”) is done electronically

    • Your lawyer is a licensed user of the Ontario Teraview Electronic Registration System and the information concerning the legal title transfer is prepared by your lawyer and registered electronically on your behalf.

  • On the day of closing, your lawyer will send the closing proceeds to the seller’s lawyer and, in return, receive the keys.

  • Once the deliveries have been received by both the seller’s lawyer and the buyer’s lawyer, they will then access the electronic database, exchange passwords, and allow the Transfer (and Charge if applicable) to be registered by the buyer’s lawyer. The actual registration is almost instantaneous, and once done, allows the buyer’s lawyer to release the keys to the buyer.

  • The one remaining thing for the buyer to do is to come back into the lawyer’s office to pick up the keys. For timing of picking up your keys, please see “When Do I Get the Keys”.


As a vendor, your lawyer will assist you in the preparation of the agreement. Your lawyer prepares the Statement of Adjustments and the closing documentation and makes arrangements to pay out all of the existing debts secured against the property. The closing adjustments include all prepaid items such as property taxes, condominium fees or fuel oil.

  • Your lawyer closes the transaction for you (this is now done electronically – for further information about the process, please see the “Purchases” section) and ensures that all obligations are paid out of the closing proceeds (such things as the real estate commission, the balance of any outstanding mortgages or secured lines of credit).

  • They then deliver to you, or deposit into your bank account, the net proceeds.


  • For mortgage refinancing, the lawyer will:

    • Search title to review previous Mortgages registered

    • Meet all the obligations set out by the financial institution in the Mortgage Commitment, prepare the mortgage

    • Receive the proceeds

    • Register the mortgage (called a “Charge”) electronically

    • Pay all necessary obligations

    • Deliver, or deposit into your bank account, the net proceeds

  • For a construction mortgage, there will be several “draws” and a sub-search of title is required at each stage.

When Should I See a Lawyer?

You should see, or contact a lawyer certainly before signing the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. Once signed, an Agreement of Purchase and Sale is a formal contract and you must ensure that your understanding is fully and clearly expressed in the Agreement. Verbal agreements, representations or promises are worthless. Get it all in writing!

What Will it Cost?

The legal costs consist of three components: fees, disbursements and taxes. Fees are the cost of our firm's professional services. Disbursements are the out of pocket costs that we incur on your behalf to complete the transaction for you. Taxes are the Harmonised Sales Tax (HST) and, for purchases only, the Land Transfer Tax (LTT). Our typical fees and disbursements for a single family residence in the City of Ottawa are:


  • Fees ($750) + HST + Disbursements, approximately $1,100.00


  • Fees ($975) + HST + Disbursements, approximately $2025.00

  • Registration fees are extra – i.e. transfer deed, mortgage, discharge or mortgage, etc.

 Fees, disbursements and taxes will vary with each property. Examples of disbursement costs are:

  • Certifying cheques and/or wire transfer fees

  • Couriers as needed

  • Clearance certificates/Status Certificates

  • LSUC levy

  • Searching the title

  • Software licensing fees

  • Title insurance

We would be pleased to provide a specific, detailed quotation. If you are buying or selling property located in Ontario, Canada, please send us a request for a quote. There are no hidden costs, or extra charges in fine print. Quoted disbursement and tax prices are, however, subject to change due to tax increases or other cost increases beyond our control.

When do I get the Keys?

Although registration is now electronic and the process itself is virtually instantaneous, (in most areas - there are exceptions, for example the former counties of Grenville, Dundas, Glengarry, and Leeds) the actual time it takes to close is dependent upon several factors.

Typical timing for picking up keys at your lawyer’s office is mid-afternoon. It could be as late as 5:00 PM (this is the time that the electronic system shuts down), or, if things go very well, as early as noon. But don’t count on your keys to schedule your movers, or to have your appliances delivered or your carpets cleaned until later in the day.

  • First, monies have to be received from the financial institution you are dealing with and banking has to be done on the day of closing.

  • Then the certified monies have to be sent by courier to the other law firm.

  • Finally both lawyers have to be available to access their computers to “close” the transaction.

When do I get the Money?

As with keys, the money is only released once the transaction has been registered. The usual time to pick up your cheque is mid-to-late afternoon on the day of closing. Again, this depends on a number of factors so don’t count on the proceeds until 5:00 PM.