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Lady Justice: There’s No Place Like Home

My favourite movie is the Wizard of Oz. I recall, as a small child, how magical that movie was to watch every Christmas on our black and white television. I missed the full effect of the movie magic (black and white Kansas prairies transforming to brilliantly colourful Oz) but special effects will never outdo a great story. The movie had both. Regardless of the lure of the Emerald City and an alleged Wizard, Dorothy’s real discovery was that “there’s no place like home”.

My mother always did her best to make sure our home was a place of magic and acceptance. Our home was adjacent to the Brownie Castle (a bout of aimless Googling resulted in discovering a crude video game with the Castle as a backdrop). Our home was a converted carriage house on the edge of a forest. The wicked witch of a landlord who lived in the Castle must have rued the day she rented the house to an energetic family with five rugrats. A final straw expediting our departure occurred when my dad erected a pool above ground that was supposed to have a hole excavated to contain it. We all jumped in and created our own backyard tsunami. I hope I recreated that same magical and accepting place for my children when they were young (especially as our pool is actually in the ground).

Skip ahead to my first law firm position after graduating from law school. Trading in a decade of minimum wage and tips for a decent salary at a major law firm in Calgary led to my purchasing my first home. The realtor to professionals like the one I had become transported me and my blue-collar partner house hunting in a chauffeured limousine. It was not lost on me that once we made a purchase, the realtor’s housewarming gift (with many business cards) was not sent to the happy couple but addressed to the upwardly mobile lawyer half at her place of business. All that glitters is not gold.

Especially compared to Toronto and Vancouver, central Alberta remains a place where many young people can still dream of affording a house. Red Deer being ranked as the most affordable city in Canada this year (and beautiful Sylvan Lake, where we just opened a new office, being one of the fastest growing), is another feather in central Alberta’s cap. Location, location, location.

Some tips on purchasing real estate. When buying a house, buy only the house – do not finance furniture or cars. Do not rack up spending on your credit cards. Any of these things could affect your mortgage qualification (right to the day of closing) – so wait to do anything other than the purchase of the house.

When thinking of the budget to purchase – don’t forget closing costs! These include legal fees, government registration fees, property tax adjustments as well as, potentially, title insurance. (The backlog with registering at Land Titles (3+ months) is reducing and as part of my legal tech evangelism, I encourage everyone to advocate for the digital transformation of the Land Titles process.)

Keeping these tips in mind during your real estate purchase will assist you to find your own place to call “home” here on the prairies.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact dpurcell@dpqclaw.com.

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