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Purchasing a Home in Nova Scotia | Closing Costs | Barristers & Solicitors


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P.O. Box 876 Dartmouth Main P.O. Nova Scotia B2Y 3Z5 902-469-9500

The Agreement of Purchase and Sale

In most cases, an Agreement of Purchase and Sale is not seen by a lawyer until after it is signed. Problems arise from time to time with these agreements. This agreement forms the basis of your legal rights and obligations and must be taken seriously. You should review it with your lawyer before signing if possible.

Often, Agreements of Purchase and Sale contain conditional clauses. These clauses list certain items to which the agreement is subject. For instance, most Agreements of Purchase and Sale are conditional on the purchaser being able to arrange a mortgage or assume an existing mortgage. A certain period of time is specified in which you are to arrange this financing. Failure to notify the vendor of your inability to obtain financing approval within the time allowed could result in a lawsuit against you if you fail to complete the purchase. Other common conditions include those with respect to satisfactory water tests or home inspections. Special attention must be paid to these clauses and the deadlines imposed by them.

The Title Search

Your lawyer will arrange for the title to the property to be searched. This search involves reviewing the history of the property for a period of time, usually forty to sixty years. This is done to ensure that there is a proper chain of title ending with ownership of the property by the person from whom you are buying. As a result of that search, your lawyer will be able to advise you whether you will have a good title to the property upon completion of the transaction.

Objections to Title

During the course of the search, certain problems with the vendor's title may become apparent. These problems are known as objections to title. They may include prior improper conveyances or outstanding mortgages or judgments registered against the property. Your lawyer will indicate on your behalf that unless the defects are corrected, you will not proceed with the transaction.

In certain cases, the property will be subject to restrictive covenants, building restrictions, easements or rights-of-way. Building restrictions and restrictive covenants restrict the owner of the property from doing certain things with the property, and may include requirements as to the type of materials used in construction and the number and nature of structures on the lot.

Municipal Taxes and Liens

Municipal authorities in Nova Scotia have a lien against properties for outstanding taxes or betterment charges. Betterment charges represent a shared cost for certain improvements made to the locality by the municipality, such as the installation of sidewalks and the paving of streets. If there are unpaid taxes or betterment charges, the municipality has the right to force the sale of the property to recover the debt. In the course of representing you, your lawyer will order a tax certificate from the appropriate municipality. That certificate will reveal whether there are any balances outstanding with respect to taxes or betterments.

On closing, the current year's taxes will be apportioned between the purchaser and vendor. For example, if the vendor has paid the full year's taxes, you will reimburse him for the taxes applicable to the period following closing. Also, betterments completed before closing are usually paid for by the vendor. Your lawyer should prepare these adjustments for you and review them with you prior to closing.

Location Certificate

Your lawyer has no way of ensuring that the house is actually located on the land being purchased. For this reason it is in your best interest to obtain a Location Certificate from a qualified land surveyor.

Your surveyor will offer you two options: he or she will either prepare a location certificate or conduct a full survey.

A location certificate (also known as a plot plan) does not establish where the boundary lines of your property are; it merely certifies that the building on that property is within the boundaries of the lot. In order to establish where the boundaries are between your property and those surrounding it, you must obtain a full survey. There, the surveyor identifies the location of each boundary line and places survey markers in the ground to mark the location of those lines.

Survey information with respect to the property is frequently supplied by the vendor for information purposes. Often purchasers will, as a cost saving measure, rely upon this survey information. However, it must be stressed that should you choose to rely on a location or survey certificate which was not prepared for you and a mistake in that certificate is later discovered, you may have no legal recourse against the surveyor for negligence. If, on the other hand, you have a surveyor prepare a new certificate for you and his or her work is negligently done, you will have direct legal recourse against that surveyor for your loss. You should advise your lawyer as soon as possible if you wish to retain the services of a surveyor.

Mortgage Funding

In most cases, purchasers either assume an existing mortgage or arrange new mortgage financing to assist in the purchase of the property. It is your responsibility to arrange mortgage financing with the financial institution of your choice or to contact the existing mortgage company with respect to the assumption of an existing mortgage. Once your application for financing has been approved, the mortgage company will request the name of your solicitor and will forward all necessary documentation to him or her.

Mortgage funds will be advanced to your lawyer's firm in trust and will be disbursed by the firm on closing. As the Agreement of Purchase and Sale normally limits the time available to you to arrange financing, you should contact your mortgage company as soon as possible. You should also contact your lawyer to advise when the mortgage financing has been arranged or approved.

Fire Insurance

In due course, you should arrange for fire insurance to be effective as of the date of closing. In most cases, mortgage companies insist that the property be insured for an amount at least equal to the face amount of the mortgage; you should, however, insure your property for its full insurable value. The policy itself must show the mortgage company as having an interest in the property, with loss payable to the mortgage company up to the amount loaned. Before any funds will be released to your lawyer by the mortgage company, your insurance agent must provide written confirmation of the policy.

You must advise your insurance agent if the property is to remain vacant for a period of time after you purchase it. Also, you must advise your insurance agent if the property is to be used for rental purposes only.

Manner of Taking Title

You must decide the manner in which you wish to take title to your property. If you and your spouse are purchasing a property, there are three alternatives open to you: you may take title as joint tenants, as tenant-in-common, or in the name of either one of you individually.

Most couples purchase property as "joint tenants." When one of the two persons in whose names the property is registered dies, title to the land automatically passes to the survivor. This feature is known as the right of survivorship. As a result of this right, the property does not pass through the estate of the deceased party, and probate fees are not payable in connection with it.

If you decide to purchase as "tenants-in-common" and one of you dies while you both still own the property, his or her one-half interest in the property passes in accordance with the terms of the deceased's Will or, if there is no Will, to the deceased's heirs-at-law. Probate fees on the value of the land will be payable in this event.

If you take the property as either joint tenants or as tenants-in-common, each owner is as much entitled to possession of any part of the land as the other, and neither can point to any particular segment of the land as being his or her own.

As a third alternative, you might decide to take title under the name of one individual only. This method may be selected for a number of reasons. It may be done for income tax purposes or to protect the property from the possible debts of the other owner. For example, many business people have their properties in the names of their spouses so that any debts of the businesses will not attach to the houses in case of business failure.

If you should decide to place the property in the name of one individual only, your lawyer might point out to you that if the individual with title dies without a Will, the property may be frozen in the estate for a lengthy period of time. Also, problems might arise on marriage breakdown. If you are considering taking title in one name only, please speak to your lawyer to further discuss the implications.

Deed Transfer Tax

Most of the municipalities in Nova Scotia impose a Deed Transfer Tax. In the majority of transactions, Halifax Regional Municipality charges one and one half percent (1.50%) of the total purchase price of the property. Until this tax has been paid to the appropriate municipal authority, the Registry of Deeds will not accept the Deed for registration. Accordingly, your lawyer will require funds from you to pay this tax and will pay them on your behalf prior to registration of the Deed.

Harmonized Sales Tax

The Federal and Provincial Government imposes a 15% tax on the sale of new construction and commercial properties. You should ask your lawyer about this tax to determine if it will apply to your transaction.

The Closing

Some years ago, the majority of property closings took place in a rather formal atmosphere. The purchasers and their solicitor sat at one side of a conference table and the vendors and their solicitor sat at the other side. The adjustments your lawyer prepared, together with the Deed, keys, and the cheque were transferred.

Almost all residential property transactions now take place at informal closings. The transaction is agreed to by telephone, and the documents and money are transferred by courier.

However, your lawyer will usually require a meeting with you before the closing. Prior to that meeting, most lawyers will attempt to review the adjustments and advise you of the amount of money which is required to close the transaction. This amount will include the Deed Transfer Tax together with legal fees and disbursements. The funds must be supplied by way of cash, certified cheque or bank draft made payable to your lawyer in trust. It will be necessary for you to ensure that your lawyer has received these funds in this manner prior to closing.

On the day of closing your lawyer will forward the necessary funds to the vendor's lawyer who will, in turn, provide the executed Deed, and keys to the property. Once your lawyer has received these, he or she will pay the Deed Transfer Tax on your behalf, register the Deed and the mortgage in the Registry of Deeds for the appropriate county, and arrange for you to receive the keys.

Approximately three to four weeks after the closing you should receive from your lawyer the registered Deed and supporting documents, including your lawyer's certificate of title.

This article is meant to give a general overview. For advice, a lawyer should be consulted.

PREPARED BY: Christene H. Hirschfeld

PREFERRED AREAS OF PRACTICE: Real Estate, Corporate and Commercial.


For further information please contact Christene H. Hirschfeld

P.O. Box 876 Dartmouth Main P.O. Nova Scotia B2Y 3Z5 902-469-9500


When you are shopping for a home in Nova Scotia, you may be presented with the opportunity of purchasing a condominium unit. This lawletter is intended to give you an overview of some of the unique issues which arise when you buy such a unit.

What Is It That You Buy When Purchasing A Condominium?

A condominium complex is a system of separate ownership of individual units in a multiple unit building, and in Nova Scotia, its creation is authorized by statute. The ownership of a unit differs from the ownership of a house in certain ways.

The condominium you are purchasing is a self-contained unit. In a high-rise development, your unit will be that area horizontally and vertically between the walls, from the bare floor under your carpet to the ceiling. Any walls within the unit that support the entire complex are not included in your unit.

You are also purchasing a percentage share in the common elements of the complex. Common elements are generally described as being all the property in the complex except the individual units. With your condominium, you will also receive the right to the exclusive use of certain common elements. For example, if you have a balcony, you do not own it because it does not fall within the area of your unit; rather, you are granted the exclusive right to use that balcony, or you may be provided a specific area for storage.

Finally, by purchasing a condominium unit, you are also acquiring part ownership in the Condominium Corporation. The Condominium Corporation is an incorporated company whose object is to maintain the property of the complex. A unit owner is in a position that is very similar to a shareholder of a corporation. Each unit owner has a vote in the running of the corporation. All the unit owners' votes may not be equal; rather, they may vary according to the unit size or certain other factors. The Condominium Corporation is in charge of the day to day maintenance of the entire condominium complex.

Restrictions on Ownership of the Unit

The use to which you may put your condominium unit is restricted by the terms set out in the following documents:


The Declaration - this is a lengthy document which, among other things, sets out many of the rights and privileges which a unit owner enjoys. Similarly, it contains many restrictions which may effect your use of the unit. For example, the Declaration may state that the unit cannot be used for the purpose of running a business, or that no interior alterations may be made without consent, or it may restrict your right to lease your unit, or prohibit the ownership of pets.



2 .

The Bylaws - this document authorizes the Condominium Corporation to make rules from time to time. These rules are much like the occupancy rules which are enforced in an apartment building. They are known as the Common Element Rules, and they dictate how the unit owners in the complex must act in relation to the common areas and common elements. The Condominium Act requires that Bylaws be registered with the Registrar of Condominiums in order to be enforceable. Common Element Rules, however, need not be registered in this manner.

These documents form contractual arrangements which are very difficult to change. It takes a one hundred per cent (100 %) vote of all unit holders and all encumbrancers (e.g. mortgage holders) of the property to amend the Declaration. It takes a vote of the owners of at least 60% of the common elements to amend and/or pass a Bylaw. It takes a vote of a majority of unit owners present at a meeting to pass Common Element Rules.

The Declaration, Bylaws and Common Element Rules will govern the use of your new home. Please read them carefully and contact your lawyer immediately should you have any questions or concerns. Clause 3 of the standard form of Agreement of Purchase and Sale for condominium real estate transactions allows a purchaser five (5) days within which to review the Deed, Declaration, Bylaws and Common Element Rules and Regulations of the Condominium Corporation. You must carefully review these documents and raise any objections which you have within the time allowed.

Day to Day Management

As is mentioned above, the Condominium Corporation is charged with the day to day management of the complex. Each unit owner has the right to run for office as well as to review the financial statements of the Corporation. All meetings must be held in accordance with the Bylaws.

The real day to day management of the corporation is usually carried out by a separate management company. That management company is charged with the responsibility of maintaining the building, collecting the monthly assessments, and paying the utilities. If you as a unit owner are not satisfied with the management company, you can suggest that the contract not be renewed when it comes up for review.

Monthly Fees

The monthly condominium fees paid by you as a unit owner to the Condominium Corporation will be used to maintain the buildings and to pay day to day expenses. A portion of the fee goes into a reserve fund to be used at some future date for large unexpected expenses such are roof replacement, paving or furnace repair. These condominium fees are much the same as taxes and will increase in the future. the sale.

Parking Spaces

Each Condominium Corporation differs with respect to the allocation of parking spaces. In some cases, they are treated as exclusive use common elements and assigned to the particular units under the terms of the Declaration. You automatically receive the right to use the parking spot assigned to your unit when you purchase that unit. In other cases, the parking space may be separately deeded to an owner; then you must ensure that you receive a deed to both your unit and to the relevant parking space. In yet other cases, the Condominium Corporation will enter into leases whereby individuals may lease parking spaces. This, of course, will be subject to the availability of parking spaces, and it may be necessary for you to put your name on a waiting list.

The availability of parking will have an impact on the purchase price and the resale value of your condominium. It is, therefore, very important that you make inquiries with respect to the allocation of parking spaces and that you include a provision relating to this issue in your Offer to Purchase.

Real Property Taxes

You should bear in mind that your condominium unit will be taxed by the municipality as if it were a single family dwelling. With new developments, the property may still be assessed to the owner of the development; however, ultimately, each unit will be assigned a tax account number and will be assessed individually. Your bank may ask you to pay 1/12 of your yearly taxes with your monthly mortgage payments in order to ensure that the taxes will be paid.


While the Condominium Corporation is required to maintain insurance on the complex as a whole, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have an adequate condominium owners insurance policy in place in respect of your particular unit. Confirmation that such a policy exists will be required for your mortgage holder. You should make arrangements with your insurance agent to ensure that adequate insurance is in place on the day of closing.

This article is meant to give a general overview. For advice, a lawyer should be consulted.

Copyright April, 1999

PREPARED BY: Christene H. Hirschfeld

PREFERRED AREAS OF PRACTICE: Corporate and Commercial

For further information please contact Christene H. Hirschfeld

P.O. Box 876 Dartmouth Main P.O. Nova Scotia B2Y 3Z5 902-469-9500


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