HST a factor in price paid for resale homes

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Costs will increase for realtors’ fees, inspections, experts say

Brian Morton

While the harmonized sales tax (HST) doesn’t directly apply to the selling price of a resale home as it does with new homes, that doesn’t mean buyers of resale homes are completely off the hook for the new tax.

According to industry and tax experts, the homebuyer and seller still face a slightly higher bill because the HST will apply to such things as real estate fees, home inspections, appraisals and the costs of clearing title.

However, it won’t affect other services associated with real estate transactions including bank fees — which are not subject to the GST and won’t be subject to the HST — and notary public and lawyers’ fees, which are already subject to the GST and the provincial sales tax, which add up to the same additional cost as the HST.

As well, buyers of resale homes would be subject to the new tax for such things as renovations, maintenance, upgrades, environmental consultants and moving expenses.

“It can add up, but it’s nowhere near the same degree as you’d pay in HST on a new home,” Michael Welters, a tax lawyer with Bull, Housser and Tupper, said in an interview. “I don’t think the HST will be significant. I think it will be a minor addition in the overall cost.

“But it can still [increase costs]. You can easily pay $2,000 for a small move in the Lower Mainland.”

Neil Davie, real property section chair, Canadian Bar Association, B.C. branch, agreed that the new tax will have an impact on transactions. He said, for example, an environmental consultant may have to be hired by the buyer of an older house to investigate an underground storage tank. That cost would increase with the HST, he added.

Cameron Muir, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, said in an interview that there’s an added cost for resale homes, but that the real impact will be with new homes.

“It [the HST] will add to closing costs for resale homes,” said Muir. “It will take a bite, but not dramatic enough to have a significant impact on the marketplace.”

So how does this all reflect on the bottom line of buying a resale home?

If someone buys a $450,000 resale home, there will be about $16,500 in closing costs for such things as appraisals, inspections, survey fees and realtors’ fees.

With the HST, the buyer will pay more than $1,100 more due to the new tax.

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