I am purchasing a new home. I heard from my real estate agent that I would have to get title insurance. Is this necessary?
Title insurance has been around for the last 15 years and is used in almost all residential real estate purchases, especially those involving mortgages.
What is title insurance and how much does it cost?
Title insurance is an insurance policy covering a variety of risks involving the purchase and ownership of real estate. The policy coverage lasts for the entire period of ownership and is, in general, a cheaper option than having a real estate Lawyer perform full title and off-title searches so as to provide a legal opinion on title. Mortgage providers insist on either a Lawyer providing them with an opinion on title (and the searches that go with it) or to have the transaction title insured. An average one-time premium for title insurance ranges from $300 to $400 for a policy insuring a new owner and the mortgage provider.
What does title insurance cover?
Title insurance covers a variety of issues associated with purchasing a home, such as conflicting ownership claims, spousal claims, title defects, encroachments and subsequent removal of structures, unpaid property taxes and utilities, by-law infringements, such as renovations without a building permit, and many other issues. Some title insurance companies also cover errors made by a real estate Lawyer representing a purchaser.
Common Exclusions of Title Insurance
The most common exclusions (i.e. not covered) by title insurance are environmental issues and soil contamination, title issues known to the purchaser or their Lawyer prior to closing and aboriginal claims. Title insurance only covers issues that crystalized prior to closing but were discovered following the closing. For example, renovations made to your home without a work permit after you have moved in would be excluded.
Home buyers in Ontario purchase their new homes without any obligation on the seller to disclose issues with the property. Title insurance is a very efficient way to protect your investment and deal with any surprises that may come up after your purchase.
Frequently Asked Questions
As a first time home buyer you may be eligible to receive a partial refund of the Ontario Land Transfer Tax which is charged on real estate purchases. The First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit and the Home Buyers’ Plan are federal programs that provide assistance.
Land Transfer Tax (LTT)
The Land Transfer Tax is paid to Ontario government whenever there is a registered change of ownership of real property. While there are certain exceptions, the land transfer tax is generally payable whenever someone purchases a residential home. The amount of the LTT depends on the purchase price and the current tax rate rises progressively from 0.5% on the first $55,000 of the purchase price to 2% of the amount of purchase price which exceeds $400,000.First time home buyers get a LTT refund up to a maximum of $2,000. To qualify for this refund, you must not have owned a home anywhere in the world in the past and you must use your new home as your primary residence within nine months of the purchase. If you are buying a home together with someone that is not a first time home buyer, you can still receive half of the refund.
First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (HBTC)
The First Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit is available for the taxation year in which a first home is purchased. The value of this tax credit is $5,000. It can lower a person’s income tax by up to $750.
Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP)
Home buyers can withdraw up to $25,000 from an RRSP if the funds are used towards the purchase of their home. Although there are no immediate tax consequences at the time of withdrawal, the full amount must be repaid to the RRSP within 15 years. To qualify, the Purchaser must not have owned a home in the preceding four years.
We placed an offer on a house, which was accepted by the sellers. The agreement is conditional upon a satisfactory home inspection. The house was built only a few years ago and we are considering waiving our right to a home inspection. If we do, what rights do we have if we discover some deficiencies in the house after the closing date? Should I wave my right to a home inspection?
The law in Ontario is pretty clear: “let the buyer beware”. Unless there is a fraud, misrepresentation or mistake made by the seller, the buyer takes the existing property as he finds it. Therefore, most of the time the buyer can’t make a claim against the seller for any deficiencies discovered after closing. The general rule is that there is no obligation to disclose any defects that the seller is aware of. The only exceptions to this rule are serious hidden defects. Hidden defects are those that are not discoverable by a reasonable inspection. Further, such defects have to be serious enough to either affect the integrity of the house or render the house unfit for human habitation. Hidden defects are also those defects that the seller is trying to conceal.
Representations and Warranties
The sellers of residential real estate in Ontario are not obliged to provide any representations or warranties to the buyer.
The standard Agreement of Purchase and Sale for a resale home used by real estate agents does not contain any warranties in regards to the physical condition of real estate property, except for a very limited warranty related to ureaformeldahyde insulation. The buyer might try to negotiate warranties into the agreement of purchase and sale, however this is very rare.
A proper home inspection performed by an experienced home inspector is the best way to protect you from any unpleasant surprises. While a home inspector might not be able to identify all defects, especially hidden ones, it is the only way to learn what you are buying and to make an informed decision about one of the most important purchases of your lifetime.
Section 76 of the Ontario Condominium Act (the “Act”) provides for what is called a “Status Certificate”. Every condo purchase should be contingent upon review of the Status Certificate and a condominium corporation must provide a status certificate for a condominium unit upon request. The Status Certificate is used to learn all about the condominium corporation and provide the buyer with much of the documentation required for review. The Act sets out what must be contained in all Status Certificates, some of which includes:
- Disclosure of all outstanding judgments against the corporation and the status of any legal proceedings to which the condominium corporation is a party;
- A statement of any upcoming major repairs;
- A statement of the common expenses for the unit and any default on the payment of those expenses;
- A copy of the current budget of the corporation; and
- A statement about the most recent reserve fund study and the amount in the reserve fund. (The reserve fund is used for performing major repairs of the common elements of the condo corporation.)
Attached to the Status Certificate are the rules and regulations of the condominium used for governing common elements such as hallways, lobbies and balconies. A real estate Lawyer can review these rules and explain them so that you understand what your rights and obligations are as condo owners.
Remember that according to the Act, the condo corporation may charge a prescribed fee for providing you with the Status Certificate