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Top Ontario real estate developments in 2020

Monday, January 18, 2021 @ 12:06 PM | By Mark Weisleder


Mark Weisleder %>
Mark Weisleder
So many of us are happy to put the year 2020 behind us and look forward to a better 2021. Still, there were positive developments in the real estate industry in 2020 that we should all be grateful for. Here they are:

1. Real estate was designated as an essential service by the provincial government.

Not many realize it but there was a brief period in March of 2020 when the province of Ontario was considering closing down the entire real estate industry, meaning that no agreements of purchase and sale could be completed and registered until the end of the pandemic. This did not happen, partly because the real estate industry, the law society and law firms took the lead to make sure that properties could still be sold safely and then closed safely, with minimal client interaction.

2. Making lemonade out of lemons

Although the pandemic presented all kinds of initial hardships on trying to close real estate deals safely, law firms quickly adapted to signing clients up on Zoom calls, transferring money between law firms digitally, exchanging closing documents electronically by e-mail and using lockboxes to transfer keys on closing, all with the effect of minimizing client contact. Even when the pandemic ends, it is hoped that these processes will be continued to make the practice of real estate law more efficient. It also seems that one of the final aggravations and arguments between law firms, about which client pays the $17.50 wire fee, has been decided by the law society. Amen to that.

3. Real estate agents were given the right to incorporate.

This was a major development for real estate agents in Ontario, as they have now been recognized as true professionals and can take advantage of tax benefits of incorporating their businesses, similar to doctors, lawyers and accountants. Our law firm has already assisted over 200 real estate agents in completing their incorporation, including complying with all requirements of the Real Estate Council of Ontario.

4. It is more difficult to sell a home occupied by a tenant during a pandemic.

As many of you know, it was not easy to evict a tenant even before the pandemic when trying to obtain vacant possession to close your real estate agreement. The effects of the pandemic have made this process even harder. The province has now suspended all evictions during this latest lockdown period. Unfortunately this has allowed tenants to take advantage of these delays. Some tenants have demanded one year’s rent as compensation to leave in a timely manner, even when the landlord seller properly served the eviction notice and the buyer was intending on moving into the property on closing. My advice to real estate agents is now make a deal with the tenant first to find them another place to live, pay any incentive now and then once the tenant vacates, put the property up for sale. Then there will be no delays in showings, ability to stage, selling and closing.

5. Real estate lawyers working together more to solve problems.

I have noticed in the past year that while there may be on average the same number of “difficult” real estate deals, whether it is buyers needing extensions due to mortgage issues, resolving title problems, assisting with the typical damages or missing chattels discovered at the final walkthrough by the buyer, there is a less adversarial nature going on, as real estate lawyers are doing our best to try and resolve problems amicably. Maybe we are just more grateful for what we do have, even if the file is aggravating.

From my partners and staff at Realestatelawyers.ca LLP, I wish you all to be healthy and stay safe and a very successful 2021.

Mark Weisleder is a senior partner with the law firm Real Estate Lawyers.ca LLP and is also an author, newspaper columnist and keynote speaker. He has practised real estate law for over 30 years and has written best-selling industry books for homebuyers and sellers, residential landlords and real estate salespeople. Reach him at mark@realestatelawyers.ca.

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