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Breathing life into a home sale falling apart

Lindsay Smith

By Lindsay Smith/Real Estate Columnist

Over the past week I sold a townhome locally and felt it would be interesting to go through how the sale unfolded and share what a listing broker, at times, has to deal with to get a sold sign on a property.

The townhome was something called a “Parcel of Tied Land.” (POTL) This is a new classification in Durham Region that simply means a series of townhomes with an interior road leading to individual driveways. This road is private, and what happens legally is the developer creates a “condominium” that all owners share, in this case, the maintenance of the private road. So, it is kind of a freehold townhome and kind of a condo.

Have I lost you yet? This POTL thing is part of how the messy sale unfolded.

A few more details: there have been 16 units in this complex sell successfully in 2021. It is a perfect location for a first-time buyer, downsizer or an investor. A very saleable home in a great neighbourhood. Our winning bid was from a first time buyer couple.

Here is what made the experience interesting, choppy, and, at one point, looking like it would not come together. The property hit the market and we were reviewing offers on Tuesday afternoon. There were two other units for sale in the complex – one was reviewing offers on Monday evening, and another hit the market and offers were being reviewed on Tuesday evening.

We had 27 showings over the weekend and ended up having two offers to choose from. One was a standout with a condition on a lawyer reviewing the condo documents. The buyer asked for a week for the lawyer to look over the documents, however, as I had them in my possession, I sent them to the buyers’ agent and shortened the condition date to Friday at 5 p.m. So far so good, we have a conditional offer accepted with a three-day condition. Things are looking up given that I have never had a deal fall out on a condo document review.

This is where it gets interesting. Friday morning, I reached out to the buyer agent and they said some issues came up with the documentation when the lawyer reviewed them. This was around noon on the last day of the conditional period. When we had an email forwarded to us by the lawyer, we noticed that the “lawyer” was indeed a lawyer, in the state of Ohio, and was a law student here in Ontario. The other item that was identified was the law office was an online based practice.

What we ended up doing was initiating discussions with the management company that prepared the documentation to identify that the items deemed missing were actually in the documents and that the law student must have been somewhat confused at what they were reading. What was creating confusion was that the law student would not discuss any of the issues with the buyer agent, due to perceived privacy concerns. A student was giving advice on a real estate transaction to a first-time buyer, who then passed the information on to their agent. The movie “Lost in Translation” keeps coming up in my mind. In the end, the buyers signed off allowing a sold sign to happen and our seller being thrilled that everything worked out for they and the buyers.

Here are some takeaways:

  • When either buying or selling a home, use a trusted, full time, local, experienced agent.
  • As a client moves through the process of buying or selling, make sure that the professionals you rely upon for advice are local to the area, understanding the nuances of local real estate and that they are experienced in the type of property you are interested in negotiating.
  • Ensure all of the professionals you hire have the ability to work together as a team in order to best serve the needs of all parties involved. Open communication is critical.
  • Make certain you understand what is being agreed to. Take note of the “time-sensitive” items and stay on top of them to move the process forward.

This sale is going ahead as planned, however, it would have been much smoother if the buyer used a local lawyer who understood what was needed to satisfy the condition and the time frame it needed to be dealt within. It is not unusual for a lawyer to call either of the agents working on a transaction if issues arise. This speeds the process up and with all of the parties working on the same goal, the chances of completion are much higher. Further, the buyer agent was not from the Durham area. The only reason I mention this point is that when I first heard there may be an issue with the condo documentation, I reached out to several local agents I know and trust, who had sold a unit in the complex recently. This information was immediately passed on to the seller, allowing them to feel comfortable with the knowledge that other townhomes sold with no issues raised by a lawyer.

Selling real estate over the past three decades, I have found that when a transaction falls apart, most times it is not the outcome that the buyer or seller really want. Many times, I have seen people get in the way of a property sale. Agents, lawyers, financial planners and insurance brokers at times create issues that lead to dreams falling apart when a buyer or a seller just wants to get moved in or moved on.

Real estate is a relationship-based business. Like all relationships, when you have open communication, engage professionals to help you navigate areas you need support in, and work in a goal-focused, ethical manner, most times, there are smiles and handshakes at the end of the process.

If you have any questions about POTL’s, or any other real estate related inquiries, I can be reached at or