March 2016 BC Notaries Real Estate Report - First Time Home Buyers Top Questions

March 2016

The Most Frequently Asked Questions by BC’s First-Time Home Buyers

The Society of Notaries Public of BC conducted an internal online survey of Notary members on key real estate topics in November 2015, which identified the most frequent questions First-Time Home Buyers ask their Notary.

“BC Notaries take extra care in explaining the conveyancing process to First-Time Home Buyers, who typically have a lot of questions,” said Tammy Morin Nakashima, President of BC Notaries and a Notary in Steveston. “Buying your first home is an exciting milestone, and we are proud to help so many First-Time Home Buyers with completing this purchase in a thorough manner.”

Notaries provide conveyancing or other legal services on more than half of all real estate transactions in B.C. and are highly trained and experienced in both simple and complex real estate transactions. As such, Notaries from Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Northern B.C., and the Okanagan, Kamloops and Kootenay regions participated in the survey.

Below are the questions the 133 participating Notaries are most frequently asked, and general guidance for First-time Home Buyers:

Notaries’ 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions by First-Time Home Buyers:

1. Do we need to pay the property transfer tax?

If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident purchasing a used home priced below $500,000, and this is the first home purchase for at least one of the buyers, then you would qualify for either a full or partial exemption from the property transfer tax. Full details of this exemption as part of the Province of B.C.’s First Time Home Buyers’ Program are available online.

As of February 17, 2016 , any Canadian citizen or permanent resident purchasing a newly-built home priced up to $750,000 as a principal resident to live in for at least a full year may also be exempt from the property transfer tax – a savings of up to $13,000. Partial exemptions are available for new housing valued up to $800,000. Additionally, those who buy land and build a home to be used as their principal residence can also apply to receive a refund of the property transfer tax rather than an exemption at the time of registration, if they complete construction and move in within a year of purchase. The program will be available to buyers regardless of how long they have lived in British Columbia, meaning those who move to B.C. to take jobs, start companies and build their lives here will also benefit. The Newly Built Home Exemption will be available to First-Time Home Buyers and previous property owners alike.

2. If my spouse has owned a home previously but I haven’t, could we still qualify for First-Time Home Buyer programs if we purchase a home that isn’t newly built?

When looking at purchasing a pre-owned home, if one or more of the purchasers don’t qualify as a First-Time Home Buyer, only the percentage of interest that the first-time home buyer has in the property is eligible for exemption. For example, if one partner qualifies and owns a 50% interest in the purchase of a $475,000 home with a partner who has previously owned a home, 50% of the tax amount would be eligible for the exemption, which would mean a tax exemption of $3,750. An equal amount, the remaining 50%, would be paid to the government by the non-exempt partner.

3. Are there any other tax credits available?

First-time home buyers might also qualify for the federal government’s First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit of up to $5,000.

4. What do Notaries do on behalf of the home buyer as part of the conveyancing?

Notaries take care of the following documents:

  • Mortgage documents – related to borrowing and securing funding from a lender
  • Title search – ensuring the property is owned by the “seller” and unencumbered
  • Insurance documents
  • Strata documents and forms (for strata properties) – determine any special assessments, fines, penalties or fees outstanding; confirm strata fees; preparation of necessary forms
  • Arrange and secure deposits and transfer funds to lender and/or purchaser
  • Property transfer and confirmation

5. What other costs should we anticipate?

In addition to the buyer’s down payment, costs may include:

  • Property valuation fee
  • Site survey
  • Home inspection
  • Adjustments for City/municipality property taxes
  • Adjustments for local utilities (water and sewer)
  • Adjustments for strata fees
  • Property Transfer Tax
  • Legal fees
  • Title insurance
  • GST (and transitional rebate)

6. What is the difference between the completion date and the possession date?

The completion date in a real estate contract is the date the property is transferred, and the money for the purchase is transferred from the buyer to the seller. It is best to ensure this date does not coincide with a holiday or weekend. The possession date is the date the buyer has the right to take possession of the property, also known as the move-in date.

7. What is the difference between Joint Tenancy and Tenants in Common?

Joint Tenancy is a type of ownership where two or more owners share equal ownership of the property accompanied with a right of survivorship, which means if one of the owners dies, then their share automatically passes on to the remaining owners.

With Tenants in Common, if one of the owners dies, their share of the property will be distributed in accordance with their Will. If a Will does not exist or is deemed invalid by the courts, their ownership will be distributed in accordance with the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.

8. How are the balance of the down payment and closing costs paid?

A Notary will draw up a statement of adjustments to add to the balance of the down payment, and will take care of ensuring these disbursements are paid once they receive payment from the buyer. The Notary will usually provide your total adjustment amount at your signing a few days before the closing date.

9. What is Title Insurance and why do I need it?

Title insurance is optional and is intended to protect home buyers against fraud. It is intended to cover problems you might run into, like construction done by the previous owners without proper permits. A current Land Title Survey wouldn’t necessarily show these problems, which could be costly to fix.

10. How do I apply for the Home Owners Grant for the property taxes?

If the home is your principal residence, you are eligible to apply for B.C.’s Home Owners Grant toward your property taxes – details for how to apply can be found online.

“Buying your first home is very exciting,” said Kristy Martin, a Notary Public in Victoria. “There are several complex factors to consider beyond square footage, décor, neighbourhood, and ensuring the home is structurally sound. That’s why it’s so important to work with a legal professional who is qualified and experienced to protect and secure this important purchase.”

About BC Notaries:

The Society of Notaries Public of BC represents more than 340 highly-trained Notary professionals. Most have locally owned and operated offices and all provide personal assistance to clients around the province. Individuals, families and businesses seek the services of BC Notaries for a wide range of non-contentious legal matters, including residential and commercial real estate transfers, mortgage refinancing, Wills and advanced healthcare planning, powers of attorney, and other important documents.

The Notary’s Tradition of Trust spans 2000 years. Notaries first came to British Columbia over 100 years ago. They continue to serve their valued clients and their communities across the province. For more information, please visit

Media contact:

Karen Cook


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