The Real Estate Transaction Relay Race: How the Notary (and others) Carries the Baton

 Anyone planning to buy a house should prepare for a relay race. So says David Watts, a notary public in Vancouver, British Columbia. Watts is the vice president of the Society of Notaries Public of B.C. (SNPBC) and has worked as a notary since 2006. According to Watts, the first lap of the race involves meeting with a mortgage broker to line up financing. Once the buyer knows what he can afford, he can get started on the second lap.

Just as racers pass the baton from person to person during a relay, the baton now gets passed to the realtor. At this point, it is up to the buyer and the realtor to work together to determine what the best purchase is based on what the buyer can afford and what he likes.

Watts says that the third lap of the relay occurs when the buyer has decided which property he wants and has completed the contract to purchase. Now the notary receives the baton.

There are numerous steps in this final leg of the race. The third lap begins when the notary looks into the property title. The lap does not end until the state of title certificate is finally delivered to the buyer who is now officially listed as the property owner.

The intermediate steps include checking for liens under the seller’s name, transferring the home purchase funds into the notary’s trust and completing the payouts, which includes giving the commissions to the realtors involved. Because the notary is responsible for making the final payments, his role is incredibly important in completing any home purchase. However, the buyer and the seller should each have different notaries to protect their interests.

While a notary technically works in the field of law, he does not represent clients in court as lawyers do. Instead, a notary helps with property sales, creates legal wills and certifies a variety of documents, ensuring the signatory’s legal identity. These are defined as non-contentious legal services.

Another important role for the notary is ensuring illegally earned money stays out of the property market. Because notaries are not covered by a solicitor-client confidentiality agreement as lawyers are, they have to verify clients’ identities and report any suspicious money exchanges to the Financial Transaction and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). Notaries are also covered by Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Regulations (PCMLTFR) in Canada.

Notaries have remained busy throughout 2020 despite the downturn associated with COVID-19. While the year started well economically, the property market slipped a bit in April before regaining momentum in May through August following interest rate cuts. The Bank of Canada took lending rates down to 0.25% in that time.

Numbers are strong again with sales from July 2020 well over 25% higher than they were at the same time last year throughout British Columbia, according to the B.C. Real Estate Association. Residential property sales throughout the province have hit over $32 billion so far this year. More buyers are getting into the real estate market now because they can take advantage of the low lending rates that give them reasonable payments.

To keep homebuyers safe, notaries must now institute new practices, such as wearing masks and installing transparent barriers between clients and employees. Plus, Watts and his colleagues allow clients to sign documents without leaving their vehicles while still ensuring that verification methods are followed to the letter.

For Watts, working as a notary underscores the importance these legal professionals have in the real estate industry. As a key individual involved in the purchasing and selling relay race, the notary also gets to experience the great joy that people experience when they make their home ownership dreams come true.

For more information on BNN Services, contact David or Madeline Ricci for a good discussion on topical issues facing the notarial industry!

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