Real Estate: The Role of the Notary

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Notaries play a central role when it comes to the purchase of a house, condo or income property. In fact, a notary must be involved when you have to sign a mortgage. Here is an overview of what notaries do when you purchase real estate.

Advises clients

Notaries advise buyers, financial institutions lending to buyers, and sellers, without taking sides. If you are not clear on what you are about to sign, ask questions!

Examines title deeds

Notaries must do what is called an examination of titles. This means the notary checks all the old deeds through which the home was transferred to one person to another over time. This lets the notary confirm that the seller really owns the home and has the right to sell it.

The examination of titles also helps uncover information that might be important for you. Here are examples:

  • The government is about to seize the property because the seller did not pay taxes.
  • A neighbour has the right to cross right over the middle of your property.
  • You could be sued if you build on the land.

A notary will tell you if this kind of information is discovered and can advise you on your options.

Draws up “authentic” documents

The notary draws up the deed of sale based on the accepted offer to purchase. The notary also prepares the deed of hypothec (mortgage), if you are using a mortgage to finance the purchase. Only a notary can prepare a deed of hypothec for real estate. Documents written by notaries are “authentic.” This means it is hard to challenge information in the documents because they were signed in front of a notary.

Registers the deed of sale and deed of hypothec (mortgage) The notary registers these two deeds in the land registry. Registration is public proof that you are the new owner.

Handles the sale money

The notary protects you by managing the money of the sale. The money goes into an account called a trust account. This prevents sellers from taking the money without paying debts tied to the property. Before giving the sale money to the seller, the notary pays anyone to whom the seller owes money and who have rights on the property.

See this infographic (French only) of the Chambre des notaires (notaries’ association) to learn more about the role of notaries.