Let’s face it, lawyers are an expensive add-on in the real estate buying process.
But when it comes to investing the amount of money required to buy a property these days, isn’t that lawyers bill (that you see as an expensive add-on), really just good insurance.
It would be as long as your lawyers is doing a professional job on your behalf.
But have you ever actually even tried to read a pre-construction condo agreement?
You will never, and I do mean never, find a more ridiculous and/or one-sided agreement (and not one-sided in your favour) anywhere.
A contract is a document that supposedly sets out concrete protections to both buyer and seller, but when it comes to Condoland, that assumption goes right out the window.
I hear consumers say things that suggest that they are intending to close their transaction without a lawyer, which is something that you cannot do as the system is just not set up for that.
And once you’ve spent that half million or so (average home in Toronto is far more than this) isn’t a few additional thousand (a drop in the bucket mathematically) dollars really just sound insurance?
Again, the implication is that your lawyer will actually read the contract and explain everything to you.
But that’s not what usually happens (it does with my lawyer Myles Waxman, whom I say is the best in Condoland as he still goes over every aspect of the transaction with me every time and that’s almost a dozen transaction in the past 15 years) and every time I buy or sell, he verifies my ID.
I see people shopping for the lowest “flat fee lawyer” that they can find.
The logical question is : “do you expect to get quality representation without paying a professional“?
That said, handing over documents to a lawyer without having read them yourself, in my opinion is a kind of financial suicide.
I read every clause and when a clause refers to another Agreement like a “Subdivision Agreement” or anything else, I quickly demand a copy of it.
That’s what has happened with my most recent purchase of a pre-construction detached home in Oakville.
The Agreement of Purchase and Sale stipulated that the may be “Warning Clauses” set out in the Subdivision Agreement between the City and the Developer.
I have been concerned (my background is in condos and ) about the builder that I bought my new place from, completing the work.
When I asked about the fence shown in the site plan and other documents and was told that they weren’t putting a fence around the collection of homes, I became concerned as the site plan showed a fence.
I discovered that the developer and the builder from whom I purchased were two different parties, and that the developer was responsible for the fence.
There was no mention of a fence in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale from the builder (who represented himself as the developer to us) but there was a slight reference to a “Subdivision Agreement” and after a year of asking for this document, among others, I finally got my hands on it this week.
It took me all of about three minutes to discover that Subdivision Agreement stipulated in a “Schedule” that: “the developer (Fernbrook) construct a board on board wood fence around the Perimeter of the lands to a height of not less than 2m . . . . . . . . , prior to occupancy of any dwelling on the lands . . . .“.
The “prior to occupancy of any dwelling on the land” part bothered me as there are already three or four families occupying homes and, you guessed it, there is still NO FENCE.
So after giving all parties (Municipal Government of Oakville, developer, builder, my lawyer, builder’s lawyer) Notice of this “breach of the Settlement Agreement“, I received a call from the builder’s staff member informing us that we “can Close next month“!
And with respect to the fence issue, they informed us that the developer would be building the fence “following grading“.
Apparently, contracts have little or no meaning to these people!
Try to tell your credit card company that, instead of paying your bill monthly you will send them an annual payment on the last day of the year (for example).
What do you think your credit card company is going to say?
So, that’s the alternative approach that I’ve chosen.
I told them that they should also read up on their Tarion documents that form a part of our agreement, in which it specifies that 90 days are required for any delay and resulting re-setting of a “tentative closing date” and I would be happy to take possession no sooner than 90 days when the obligations under the Settlement Agreement (specifically clause 39 which stipulates “the developer construct a board on board wood fence around the Perimeter of the lands to a height of not less than 2m . . . . . . . . , prior to occupancy of any dwelling on the lands . . . .“.
Now, I don’t have the University degrees that their lawyers have, and I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night!
I am confident (or at least optimistic) that their lawyers will have to agree with me, in that my position in my opinion, is reasonable in light of the existing contracts, and when all obligations therein are met.
We’ll see where it goes and I’ll keep you all informed here at simplycharles.com.
So, the punch line is that the only way you can hope to be fully protected under law is to gain the self-confidence to convince yourself that you can read and understand all those lengthy clauses in contracts.
Believe me, if I can understand them, so can you.
In the end, in our society, it always boils down to self-preservation.
Knowing how to do this straight forward stuff, not only saves you money on legal bills and/or potential loss, it also is the only way to come out ahead.
You can’t ask your real estate lawyer to litigate on your behalf, their job is to help you understand what you are getting yourself into, not fight when things steer off track.
That’s what you have to do if you want to stay safe in Condoland.
Developers are out to do one thing, and believe me it’s one thing only . . . . . make money. They are good at it.
Our minds have a mysterious way of having us always think that the developer is out to build the best building that can be built and that their dream home in the sky will be their castle.
I don’t know where this line of thought comes from but I can tell you where to put it.
I’ve fought with a developer while negotiating the purchase of a million dollar penthouse over the standard quality of a microwave that my client wanted upgraded.
They wring out absolutely every penny (I know there are no more in Canada but it sounds better than nickel)!
With tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars pouring in, they will cut every corner, building these glass towers (a problem in and of itself if you’ve been reading about Window Walls here at simplycharles.com) based on “Lowest Bid Contracts“, using unlicensed contractors with unknown levels of skill!
Municipal Governments are out to make money. According to Toronto Life Magazine (you should read “Faulty Towers” on my home page) somewhere around $10 Million for each tower!
Tarion gets its money at Closing from each unit.
The Architects and Engineers make their money up front.
The lawyers make theirs, on both sides of every Closing.
The Realtors make their commissions.
Everyone in the pecking order of Condoland makes tons of money, except for you, the consumer, the only person putting up all that money while assuming all the risk!
The actual unit design, fixtures, features and finishes that you buy can change totally without disclosure to you under the contract (I said before these are the most dysfunctional contracts that are out there).
It really is beyond the time for the enactment of serious legitimate legislation designed to effectively protect the consumer.
After all, that’s what our government is there for!
And do you know what, that’s what simplycharles is for as well.
Sign up and show your support and together we’ll change things.