How do real estate commissions work

how do real estate commissions work


Beginning July 1, 2010, there will be sales tax in Ontario of 5% + 8% = 13% (12% in British Columbia) replacing the former 5% GST (Goods and Services Tax) and the former 8% PST (Provincial Sales Tax). In Ontario, 8% PST will only continue to exist (separate from HST) with respect to 8% provincial sales tax on some insurance premiums.

1) HST and Mortgage Brokerage Fees (to arrange a mortgage, if one uses a Mortgage Broker)

HST will NOT apply since mortgage brokerage services are exempt as part of the financial services industry.

Generally, HST will be payable on commissions for any real estate sale closed after July 1, 2010. However, the general transitional rule (for sale contracts entered into before July 1, 2010), is that, if at least 90% of the services were performed prior to July 1, 2010, only 5% GST is payable (NO PST). If an offer to purchase real estate was accepted PRIOR TO July 1, 2010, then the realtor services were performed PRIOR TO July 1, 2010, and only 5% GST should be payable even though the realtor's commission is not due for payment until the sale has closed after July 1, 2010. WARNING TO SELLERS . If, prior to July 1, 2010, a seller is about to accept an offer to purchase (which will close after July 1, 2010), the seller should clarify in writing with the realtor that only GST will be payable on commissions due on a sale closing after July 1, 2010.

For residential tenancies, HST will NOT apply to such rents. For commercial tenancies (industrial, office or retail), HST will be charged on rents paid after July 1, 2010 (but most commercial tenants qualify to recover such HST payments through input tax credits).

4) HST and Condominium Monthly Maintenance Fees

For residential condominiums, HST will NOT apply on monthly common expenses, BUT HST is payable for commercial (retail, office, industrial) condo common expenses paid on or after July 1, 2010 (most commercial condo owners qualify to recover such HST payments through input tax credits).

For any part of services (labour and materials) provided after July 1, 2010 (no matter when a contract for renovations of a residence was signed), the part performed or provided after July 1, 2010, will be subject to HST.


HST will NOT be payable on the price if the property sold by the seller and bought by the buyer is personal use property. However, if the seller had been renting out the property more than 50% of the time during the seller's ownership, the price will likely be subject to HST. If the property being sold was part of a rental pool, HST will apply. Consult your tax accountant.


There will be NO HST on the price of resale residential purchases. NOTE. Resale residential purchases will therefore become a much more attractive investment (rather than buying from a builder) particularly when one considers that builder prices will result in 13% HST (whether built into the price or being structured in addition to the price by some builders in Ontario). Builder prices also must include higher increased current costs of labour, materials and land costs AS WELL AS substantial municipal levies and educational levies PLUS sizable closing adjustments (often being hidden by builders in the fine print of many pages in a builder's agreement), all of which are NOT payable by a buyer / investor who purchases RESALE residential property. (Think about it!)


If a residence being purchased has been substantially renovated, it will be treated in the same manner as buying new construction from a builder and HST will generally apply to the price paid. See Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Bulletin B-092 which states that a substantial renovation, in effect, refers to a renovation where at least 90% of the interior of a building (excluding the foundation, external walls, internal supporting walls, roof, floors and staircases) has been removed or replaced.


NO HST will be payable on the price of a resale apartment building (multi-unit residential). If part of such a building is commercial, the purchase price must be reasonably apportioned between the part of the building that is residential resale (HST exempt) and the other part of the building that has a commercial component, which part will be subject to HST.

10) HST on PURCHASE OF COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES (new or resale commercial properties closing after July 1, 2010 no matter when an offer was signed )

HST will apply to the purchase price; however, typically, buyers who obtain a GST registration prior to closing (must be registered for GST in the same manner as ownership will be taken) will not need to pay the HST on closing provided:

(a) a GST registration is obtained prior to the closing date, and

(b) the buyer signs an appropriate undertaking in the lawyer's office to become self-assessed.

NOTE . Watch out for the purchase of office condominiums, industrial condominiums, retail condominiums, the price for which will be subject to HST (being subject to only GST on the price for closings prior to July 1, 2010).


HST will typically apply to the price of such land if farm land is sold alone; however, if the land is sold as part of a farming business, it can be treated differently. Consult your tax accountant.


HST will typically apply to the price when the seller is involved in a commercial real estate activity; however, some lot sale prices might be exempt from HST if the seller is not engaged in a real estate commercial activity.


No HST is payable if an individual sells personal use vacant land (which would have been exempt from GST).


Inevitably, an offer to purchase an assignment (often on an OREA form 150 ) by a buyer will state that, if applicable, HST is included in the purchase price (as we typically see in any offer to buy resale residential properties). Be aware that according to CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), there are sometimes situations where HST will, in fact, be applicable and payable by the assignor/seller who is assigning a contract to buy a newly constructed unit/residence.

When applicable, HST will be payable by the Assignor (buyer #1 from the builder) on the portion of the assignment sale price related to the return of deposits (paid to the builder by the assignor/seller) PLUS the gross profit (the difference between the builder price and the assignment price).

The confusing question is whether or not HST is, in fact, applicable to the assignment. Assignment sellers should MAKE SURE THAT AN ASSIGNMENT SALE WHICH STATES HST IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE IS CONDITIONAL ON ASSIGNOR’S/SELLER’S LAWYER’S APPROVAL so that the lawyer for the assignor/seller can advise a seller whether or not HST is applicable to the assignment/sale.

Believe it or not, whether or not HST is applicable to an assignment depends on the original intention/the plan (in the mind of the assignor/seller) when the offer to purchase was made with the builder. If the PRIMARY PURPOSE by the assignor/seller in buying from the builder was to profit by assigning/flipping the deal, THEN HST IS APPLICABLE to the assignment/sale.

On the other hand, if an individual originally signed an offer to purchase a condo apartment (to be newly constructed by a builder) with the primary intention that the unit being bought would be used (for example) by:

(1) a son or daughter when attending University/College, or

(2) a parent who wanted or needed a place to reside, or

(3) a spouse who planned to separate from the family, or

(4) the buyer(s) who intended to downsize, or

(5) the buyer(s) who intended to use the apartment when working downtown or when visiting in Toronto, or

(6) a son or daughter who was engaged to be married, or

(7) buyer wanted to move closer to a workplace or to relocate a place of work

THEN CRA would typically conclude that HST is not applicable on the assignment/sale if (at a later date) a reasonable change in circumstances resulted in an assignment/sale of the unit if, for example,

(1) such son/daughter chose not to go to University/College, or

(2) the buyer’s mom or dad no longer could use or wanted to use such apartment as a residence (death or needs a retirement home), or

(3) intention to separate from family changed, or

(4) decision was made later not to downsize, or

(5) the buyer(s) reasonably changed his/their minds about such intended use, or

(6) the engaged son or daughter decided not to marry or decided to live elsewhere, or

(7) the workplace location changed or the intended relocation of workplace changed.

The question is whether the facts or circumstances would indicate to CRA that the condo was originally being acquired from the builder for the primary purpose of personal use versus buying the unit for only a potential profit with the intention of assigning or flipping the deal. If a buyer purchases two or more new condo units or has a corporation purchase a residential unit, it is more difficult (perhaps impossible) to try to explain to CRA that the primary purpose in buying from the builder was to acquire the unit for personal use as a residence for an immediate family member.

(c) If Builder's Agreement Silent about HST

If an offer to purchase from a builder was accepted AFTER June 18, 2009, AND failed to make reference to HST, the sale price includes Ontario's 8% PST component of the HST if it is payable (which means that the builder must pay the PST and cannot charge it to the buyer).

(d) GST Rebate (calculated on the 5% GST part of the 13% HST)

Typically, most builders include the GST component of HST (being 5%) in the sale price based on the government GST rebate being assigned from the buyer to the builder (such GST rebate being 36% of the GST payable on the first $350,000.00 which is reduced to NIL as the price increases from $350,000.00 to $450,000.00, there being no GST rebate after $450,000.00).

NOTE . In order for the GST rebate to be assigned to the builder by the buyer, the buyer must qualify by the buyer or an immediate family member living in the unit. If not qualifying (such as an investor who will be renting out the unit), the rebate cannot be assigned to the builder and the builder will charge the cost of such unassignable rebate to the buyer on closing in addition to the purchase price, which results in the buyer being forced to make a separate application to the federal government to recover such rebate. To qualify for recovery of such rebate, the investor must own the unit for at least one year and reasonably expect to rent the unit to the initial tenant for one year. An investor need not wait the year to apply for and obtain the rebate BUT if the government later discovers that ownership was less than one year, the government might seek to recover the rebate paid to the investor.

(e) PST Rebate (calculated on the 8% PST Component of the 13% HST)

WARNING : ALL builder agreements should be reviewed by a lawyer EITHER before a buyer signs an offer OR during any available cooling off period SINCE some builder agreements require buyers to pay the 8% PST (or the Net PST) component of the HST IN ADDITION TO the purchase price.

Regarding a PST rebate, ONLY 75% of the 8% PST component of the HST is refundable to a buyer on the part of the purchase price that is up to $400,000.00 (being newly constructed from a builder since there is NO HST on resale residential property). THERE IS NO government REBATE on the 8% PST for the part of ANY PRICE that EXCEEDS $400,000.00! This means that 75% of 8% (being 6%) is refundable by the government and 25% of 8% (being 2%) is NOT on the first $400,000.00 of price.

EXAMPLE : If the price from a builder is $500,000.00, the gross 8% PST component of the HST would be $40,000.00, BUT since the government offers a rebate of 75% of the 8% PST on the first $400,000.00, this will effectively (for a qualifying buyer whose immediate family member will be living in the unit) reduce the PST to 2% on the first $400,000.00 to $8,000.00. Since there is no PST rebate for that part of the price over $400,000.00, 8% is charged on the next $100,000.00 being a further $8,000.00 which means (for a qualified buyer who can assign the rebate to the builder) that the total NET PST payable is $16,000.00. If the Net PST is not included in the price of $500,000.00, the price plus Net PST payable becomes $516,000.00. The gross 8% PST on $500,000.00 is $40.000.00 but (due to the rebate of $24,000.00 on the first $400,000.00) the net PST payable is $16,000.00

Note : If the builder's agreement requires the Net PST to be paid by the buyer, the buyer pays $16,000.00 on top of the price. If the builder's agreement states that the Net PST is included in the price (as GST is typically with most builders), the price remains $500,000.00. WATCH OUT.

CAUTION : An investor-buyer who will rent out the unit will NOT qualify for assignment of PST rebate to the builder and, therefore, on closing, must pay the purchase price of $500,000.00 plus the gross PST of $40,000.00, (being a total of $540,000.00) and then, after closing apply to the government for the rebate of $24,000.00 to be received if the investor qualifies (must be owning for one year and rent to a tenant who is reasonably expected to live in the unit for one year, although the rebate application can be made as soon as the purchase from the builder is closed).

(f) Qualifying for a Rebate (GST or PST) when Buying from a Builder

In order to qualify for GST or PST rebates, the property purchased from a builder must be intended to be a primary place of residence, which means that if a person has more than one residence in the world, (in order to qualify for the rebate) the unit must be the main place of residence and not a secondary residence.

Also. the residence purchased must be used as a primary place of residence (as stated above) by the buyer or a relation of the buyer. Relation of the buyer includes an individual who is related by blood, marriage, adoption or common law ( including a former spouse or a former common law partner). Blood relation is limited to parents, siblings, children, grandchildren but does not include cousins, uncles or aunts.

(g) Additional Transitional PST rebate for NON-CONDOMINIUM Builder Purchase (where part of construction was done as of July 1, 2010)

If HST is payable on a newly constructed home (NOT a condominium) AND if construction of the residence was AT LEAST 10% complete as of July 1, 2010, a transitional PST rebate of up to 2% of the sale price can be claimed on the PST component of the HST as follows:


Category: Forex

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