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What is the notary’s role when you buy a house?

Published on September 11, 2019

In Quebec, all real estate transactions have to go through a notary. The buyer usually chooses which one to go to.

The notary makes sure that the amount equivalent to the sales price (down payment and mortgage) is deposited in a trust account when the bill of sale is signed. A trust account is an account in which someone deposits money on behalf of a third party.

Offer to purchase: Review and advice

The real estate transaction starts with the offer to purchase (also called a promise to purchase). Once all the conditions are met, it becomes an irrevocable bilateral contract that binds both parties.

“It is recommended to use a notary’s services before signing the offer to purchase. The notary will be able to look over the document with the buyer and seller and make recommendations,” says Elena Maria Semenescu, notary at DuProprio.

Note that owners selling with DuProprio can get advice from its team of notaries prior to the transaction. However, unlike a notary in private practice, DuProprio’s notaries cannot go over the document with the buyer, since their role is only to advise the seller.

Execution of the bill of sale

When the notary receives the offer to purchase signed by the seller and the buyer, he or she will begin working on the real estate file. This involves examining previous deeds to the property, checking the certificate of localisation and any distributions needed, mainly for municipal and school taxes.

The notary must make sure that the buyer has home insurance coverage prior to becoming the owner, and then will draft the bill of sale. After the buyer and seller have signed, the notary will register the sale in the land register by filing the bill of sale with Quebec’s Bureau de la publicité des droits, in the property’s registry division.

Finally, after publishing and indexing the sale in the land register, the notary will be able to release the funds (including the balance of the sales price) by issuing the appropriate cheques.

Who pays for what?

The buyer pays the notary’s fees. The amount can vary depending on the complexity of the file and the study required, but the buyer should expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,500 for the transaction.

The seller may also have fees to pay, for instance to reimburse and strike off a mortgage on the property sold, if there is one.