When buying a house, can I use the same lawyer as the other side (the purchaser or seller) and when do I want to do this?
Yes, a buyer and seller can use the same lawyer in a real estate transaction. Both parties must consent to that arrangement and need to be informed of the possible drawbacks. These include:
- there is no confidential information relevant to the deal between the parties. This means, if you share with your lawyer information about problems with the property, or plans to default on the transaction, the lawyer must disclose this to the other side.
- The lawyer cannot give advise to one side that would be harmful to the other.
- if a dispute occurs between the parties, the choose lawyer cannot continue to work for either side; everyone will need to hire a new lawyer to complete the transaction or deal with any litigation that arises.
In larger centres, where there are a lot of real estate lawyers, this arrangement is less common. However, in smaller communities, both sides often want to use the same firm because they are past clients, or the firm’s reputation. MHR Law is frequently the number one choice for both sides. Many of our real estate files are done on as joint retainers.
There are some cost savings to using the same firm, because many costs can be shared between the parties. For example, there is no need to courier documents from the seller to the buyer. Also the parties can share the costs of pulling the titles and property tax certificates. However, as the overall work to complete the file is about the same, the legal fee portion of the bill is not significantly lower.