Buying a home is an exciting process. Finding the perfect place for you might be a long search or love at first sight. But one thing is guaranteed – paperwork.

The legal contracts involved in the purchase of a property can be daunting and difficult to understand. It’s important to have excellent legal advice to guide your journey through the legalese or you could end up with more – or less – than you expected.

With many contracts, consumers are familiar with the protection of a “cooling off period”. During this time, you have the chance to change your mind about that new sports car or other impulse buy. However, this is not the case with an “offer” on a property. Once the offer is signed, it is a legally binding contract that can’t be altered unless both parties agree. Make sure you read the offer very carefully and seek legal advice before committing.

In a property purchase, the vendor is obliged to provide a recent (within 20 years) survey. This document shows the location of the property, the house, fences and any outbuildings, such as garages or sheds. It may also show a neighbour’s shed or fence encroaching on the property you plan to purchase. In some cases, the neighbour might own that piece of land now and it is no longer the vendor’s to sell.

Likewise, easements and restrictions on your property are important considerations. If, for example, you wish to build a pool but there is a utility easement along the back of the property, you will not be permitted to build in that area even though you technically own the land. It pays to be diligent in inspecting these details before you sign.

To offset the cost of your new home, you may have plans to build an apartment in your basement. Be aware that all basement apartments, no matter when they were built, are subject to current building and fire codes. This means that even if there is an existing, beautiful in-law suite in your new property, if it does not comply with new building or fire codes, it will not be legal to rent out. Updating the apartment to comply with new codes can be a costly undertaking.

As with so many things, caveat emptor – buyer beware – is good advice. Seek reliable legal counsel and your home purchase will be just as perfect as your new home.