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10 Essential Things to Know About Real Estate Assignment Sales

Bought a pre-construction condo and looking to sell it before you take possession? Here’s what you need to know.

What’s an assignment?

An assignment is when a Seller sells their interest in a property before they take possession – in other words, they sell the contract they have with the Builder to a new purchaser. When a Seller assigns a property, they aren’t actually selling the property (because they don’t own it yet) – they are selling their promise to purchase it, along with the rights and obligations of their Agreement of Purchase and Sale contract. The Buyer of an assignment is essentially stepping into the shoes of the original purchaser.

The original purchaser is considered to be the Assignor; the new Buyer is the Assignee. The Assignee is the one who will complete the final sale with the Builder.

Do assignments only happen with pre-construction condos?

It’s possible to assign any type of property, pre-construction or resale, provided there aren’t restrictions against assignment in the original contract. An assignment allows a Buyer of a any kind of home to sell their interest in that property before they take possession of it.

Why would someone want to assign a condo?

Often with pre-construction sales, there’s a long time lag between when the original contract is entered into, when the Buyer can move in (the interim occupancy period) and the final closing. It’s not uncommon for a Buyer’s circumstances to change during that time…new job out of the city, new husband or wife, new set of twins, etc. What worked for a Buyer’s lifestyle 4 years ago doesn’t always work come closing time.

Another common reason why people want to assign a contract is financial. Sometimes, the original purchaser doesn’t have the funds or can’t get the financing to complete the sale, and it’s cheaper to assign the contract to a new purchaser, than it is to renege on the sale.

Lastly, assignment sales are also common with speculative investors who buy pre-construction properties with no intention of closing on them. In these cases, the investors are banking on quick price appreciation and are eager to lock in a profit now, vs. waiting for the original closing date.

What can be negotiated in an assignment sale?

Because the Assignee is taking over the original purchaser’s contract, they can’t renegotiate the price or terms of the contract with the Builder – they are simply taking over the contract as it already exists, and as you negotiated it.

In most cases, the Assignee will mirror the deposit that you made to the Builder…so if you made a 20% deposit, you can expect the new purchaser to do the same.

Most Sellers of assignments are looking to make a profit, and part of an assignment sale negotiation is agreeing on price. Your real estate agent can guide you on price, which will determine your profit (or loss).

Builder Approval and Fees

Remember that huge legal document you signed when you made an offer to buy a pre-construction condo? It’s time to take it out and actually read it.

Your Agreement of Purchase & Sale stipulated your rights to assign the contract. While most builders allow assignments, there is usually an assignment fee that must be paid to the Builder (we’ve seen everything from $750 to $7,000).

There may be additional requirements as well, the most common being that the Builder has to approve the assignment.

Marketing Restrictions

Most pre-construction Agreements of Purchase & Sale from Toronto Builders do not allow the marketing of an assignment…so while the Builder may give you the right to assign your contract, they restrict you from posting it to the MLS or advertising it online. This makes selling an assignment extremely difficult…if people don’t know it’s available for sale, how they can possibly buy it?

While it may be very tempting to flout the no-marketing rule, BE VERY CAREFUL. Buyers guilty of marketing an assignment against the rules can be considered to have breached the Agreement, and the Builder can cancel your contract and keep your deposit.

We don’t recommend advertising an assignment for sale if it’s against the rules in your contract.

So how the heck can I find a Buyer?

There are REALTORS who specialize in assignment sales and have a database of potential Buyers and investors looking for assignments. If you want to be connected with an agent who knows the ins and outs of assignment sales, get in touch…we know some of the best assignment agents in Toronto.

What are the tax implications of real estate assignment?

Always get tax advice from a certified accountant, not from the internet (lol).

But in general, any profit made from an assignment is taxable (and any loss can be written off). The new Buyer or Assignee will be responsible for paying land transfer taxes and any HST that might be due.

How much does it cost to assign a pre-construction condo?

In addition to the Builder assignment fees, you will likely have to pay a real estate commission (unless you find the Buyer yourself) and legal fees. Because assignments are more complicated, you can expect to pay higher legal fees than you would for a resale property.

How does the closing of an assignment work?

With assignment sales, there are essentially 2 closings: the closing between the Assignor and the Assignee, and the closing between the Assignee and the Builder. With the first closing (the assignment closing) the original purchaser receives their deposit + any profit (or their deposit less any loss) from the Assignee. On the second closing (between the Builder and the Assignee), the Assignee pays the remaining amount to the Builder (usually with the help of a mortgage), and pays land transfer taxes. Title of the property transfers from the Builder to the Assignee at this point.

I suppose it could be said that there is a third closing too, when the Buyer takes possession of the property but doesn’t yet own it…this is known as the interim occupancy period. The interim occupancy occurs when the unit is ready to be occupied, but not ready to be registered with the city. Interim occupancy periods in Toronto range from a few months to a few years. During the interim occupancy period, the Buyer occupies the unit and pays the Builder an amount roughly equal to what their mortgage payment + condo fees + taxes would be. The timing of the assignment will dictate who completes the interim occupancy.

Assignments vs. Resale: Which is Better?

We often get calls from people who are debating whether they should assign a condo they bought, or wait for the building to register and then sell it as a typical resale condo.

Pros of Assigning vs. Waiting

Get your deposit back and lock in your profit sooner
Avoid paying land transfer taxes
Avoid paying HST
Maximize your return if prices are declining and you expect them to continue to decline
Lifestyle – sometimes it just makes sense to move on
Cons of Assigning vs Waiting

The pool of Buyers for assignment sales is much smaller than the pool of Buyers for resale properties, which could result in the sale taking a long time, getting a lower price than you would if you waited, or both.
Marketing restrictions are annoying and reduce the chances of finding a Buyer
Price – What is market value? If the condo building hasn’t registered and there haven’t been any resales yet, it can be difficult to determine how much the property is now worth. Assignment sales tend to sell for less than resale.
Assignment sales can be complicated, so you want to make sure that you’re working with an agent who is experienced with assignment sales, and a good lawyer.
Still thinking of assignment your condo or house? Get in touch and we’ll connect you with someone who specializes in assignment sales and can take you through the process.

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