Important: This information applies to people who are looking to purchase or make an offer on a property without a real estate agent.

These DIY tips will help protect you in the process; however, your best line of protection is to work with a real estate agent and a real estate lawyer before preparing an offer. Whether you have a real estate agent or not, the real estate lawyers at Lister Beaupre can help.

Buying privately

A.   You may visit properties on your own and begin with open houses and times posted on MLS or other real estate sites for open visits. This will allow you to walk through properties without interference. Keep in mind that certain real estate agents may refuse to show you a property if you are not represented.

B.    Do not be afraid to ask a real estate agent questions. You may discover an agent that impresses you and decide to hire them (this is a very personal relationship). It is like any other service – “fit” is crucial. Find someone that fits your own needs.

C.    As a buyer, you are free to search for properties on your own.

D.   If you do find a property that you are interested in and are satisfied with the sellers’ answers to your questions, NOW is the time to contact us at Lister Beaupre.

What to consider you are thinking of making an offer?

We will advise you on any other questions you may have and assist in the preparation of an agreement of purchase and sale. Each transaction is unique, and there are many things to consider. Here is a non-exhaustive list of factors (all of which we will discuss with you):

1.     Purchase price (unfortunately, we cannot assist on this. Some private buyers obtain an appraisal if they want to be sure.)

2.     Deposit amount (we can advise on this)

3.     Closing date (it must be a weekday)

4.     Inclusions: Things you would like to include in the purchase price (appliances, blinds, shelving, BBQ to name just a few). All of these should be set out to limit disputes on or after closing. Do not assume anything.

5.     Exclusions: Things the owner wants to keep.

6.     Rental items: The hot water tank is the most common. However, furnace and air conditioners are now becoming more common as rental items.

7.     Disclosure that you want from the Seller: survey, plan of the property, building plans, tax bills for the last year, utility bills for the last number of months (summer and winter). This is often ignored, and people rely on the Seller’s statements. It is best to verify.

8.     Finally, what is most important are the conditions. What would you like to confirm?

9.     Conditions are a great source of debate today as the market heats up in Ottawa. Is it worth losing your dream house over conditions? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”. Why would you make the largest purchase of your life without “checking under the hood”?

Conditions that you should consider:

i.     Financing: Can I obtain financing to purchase THIS property? The fact that you have been pre-approved does not mean that a financial institution will allow financing for a particular property. Typically, financial institutions order an appraisal to make sure that you are paying fair market value for the property.

ii.     Inspection: This is likely the single most important condition. You may have the financial means to buy the property, but do you have enough money to cover the hidden repair costs, if you do not do a proper inspection. If you skip this condition, you will have difficulty suing the seller for anything that was “hidden”. There are also different types of inspections:

  • Do you need a regular inspection?
  • Do you need a septic inspection?
  • Do you need to test the water?
  • Should you obtain specific inspection for fireplace, wood stove, pool, geothermal, heating and cooling systems?

If you have any doubts about issues with any of the above, get them inspected.

iii.     Insurance: Due to flooding and sewage back-ups in certain areas of the City, it is important to add this as a condition. You want to be sure that you can insure the property for a reasonable amount (with all of the standard coverages). You can always obtain insurance but it might be much more expensive, and it might be much more limited than expected due to prior claims on the property or adjoining properties.

10. Do you want the equipment and inclusions to be in good working order?

11. Finally, do you want to view the house again before closing to measure or walk through it again for future renovations? If you do not put this in the agreement, it is difficult to add in the future.

Now, you make the offer. Always be prepared for negotiation. We can help you with what to expect. What happens if the sellers’ counteroffer? Can you walk away? What should you consider? Is it worth waiving certain conditions?

In a nutshell, we act as legal advisors and not real estate agents. Real estate agents have their role, and lawyers have their role.

Please call us at 613-234-2500 or email us at and if you have any questions about buying or selling privately. We can provide you with worksheets to assist with the process. In my next article, I will talk about selling privately.