Purchasing a home can be both exciting and frightening! You’ll not only have to live with your decision, but also live in it, so you don’t want to make any costly mistakes.
Before you start looking for your “dream” home, organize yourself by considering a few basic questions:
Time spent answering these questions in advance may save you from frustration and disappointment during your search.
To meet the many kinds of needs that people have, a number of different housing styles and types of ownership have developed over the years.
Your individual requirements and your income level will govern the housing type which is most suitable for you at the present time.
Single Family, Detached Home – A detached home is one which has no common walls with any other residential structure, resting on its own land with front, rear, and side yards. It may be any size from a small, one-storey bungalow to a huge mansion.
Semi-Detached Home – A semi-detached home is two single family dwellings joined together by a common middle wall. It is sometimes called a “side-by-side” duplex.
Duplex – A duplex is two separate dwellings which are attached either side-by-side (a semi-detached home) or one unit above the other. It is important to note that this type of structure may be a strata titled property and therefore subject to the Strata Property Act.
Townhouse – In British Columbia, the term “townhouse” is usually used to describe one of a group of dwellings (most often two-storey) joined together by common walls, each with its own entrance from the outside.
Apartment – An apartment is one of several dwellings (most often single storey dwellings built one above the other) joined together by common walls, each having its entrance from a common hall. The overall building containing the apartments may be from three to 33 or more storeys.
Mobile or Manufactured Home – A manufactured home is a factory-built residential structure designed to be moved from one place to another, although wheels are not necessary. It is often placed on a rented space (called a “pad”) in a manufactured home park.
While there are a variety of housing ownership interests, the most common include the following:
Freehold – A freehold interest (also known as a fee simple) is the more precise term for what we ordinarily refer to as “ownership” of a home. The owner of the freehold interest has full use and control of the land and the buildings on it, subject to any rights of the Crown, local land-use bylaws, and any other restrictions in place at the time of purchase.
Strata Title – The strata title form of ownership is designed to provide exclusive use and ownership of a specific housing unit (the strata lot) which is contained in a larger property (the strata project), plus shared use and ownership of the common areas such as halls, grounds, garages, elevators, etc.
This type of ownership is used for duplexes, apartment blocks, townhouse complexes, warehouses, and many other types of buildings. In addition, some single family home developments may be part of a bare-land strata development. Because ownership of the common space is shared, the owners also share financial responsibility for its maintenance.
Leasehold – In some cases, you might purchase the right to use a residential property for a long, but limited, period of time. The owner of this right of use has a type of ownership called a leasehold interest.
This type of ownership is used most often for townhouses or apartments built on city-owned land. It is also used occasionally for single detached homes on farm land, on First Nation reserves, and for apartments where the owner of the freehold interest of an entire apartment block sells leasehold interests in individual apartment units to other “owners.”
Leasehold interests are frequently set for periods of 99 years, but regardless of the length of the original term, you will only be able to purchase the remaining portion. Of course, the shorter the remaining portion, the less you, or the person who eventually purchases from you, will be willing to pay for the leasehold interest.
Cooperative – In the cooperative form of ownership, each owner owns a share in a company or cooperative association which, in turn, owns a property containing a number of housing units. Each shareholder is assigned one particular unit in which to reside.
Before you start looking for a new home, it is important that you become aware of how much you can afford to pay.
This will allow you to spend your valuable time looking productively at homes which are within your predetermined price range. You can calculate a relatively accurate figure for yourself if you assemble the following information:
$ _____ The cash you have saved to be used for this home purchase is called the down-payment.
$ _____ Plus: The amount of borrowed money you are able to arrange.
$ _____ Less: Closing costs and other “last minute” costs associate with the real estate purchase.
$ _____ Equals: Maximum Price
Lending institutions will usually require you to make a down-payment of at least 5% to 10% of the purchase price of the home. Lending institution policies may vary from time to time.
As a general rule, you should make your cash down-payment as large as possible. Your deposit for the real estate transaction may form part of your down-payment.
Almost everyone who purchases a home borrows some of the money needed to pay for it.
The easiest way to determine how much money you will be able to borrow as a mortgage loan is to consult with one or more lending institutions. These lenders will apply standard tests, based on your family’s current income and debts, in order to decide the amount of money they will lend to you.
They will ask for information about your finances and make a thorough credit check, in order to be sure you are able to repay a loan.
Obtaining a loan to finance the purchase of your new home will probably require you to sign a document called a mortgage. This document will set out the terms and conditions for the loan and its repayment.
If you fail to meet your debt obligations, the lender may have the right to claim your home to pay off what you still owe.
There are two basic types of mortgage loans:
Typically, the size of a mortgage loan payment is calculated as if the loan payments were going to be paid over 20 or 25 years. This is called the amortization period.
Each payment will repay the interest due up to the payment date along with some of the principal owed. The longer the amortization period you choose, the lower the regular payment will be.
Keep in mind that the faster you repay any money borrowed by choosing a shorter amortization period, the more you reduce the total cost of borrowing.
Most mortgage loan contracts only permit the regular payments to continue for a specified term which is shorter than the amortization period. The term can be as short as six months or it can be five years or more.
At the end of the term, you are required to repay the full unpaid balance. If you don’t have the cash required to pay the balance, it may be necessary to refinance the loan.
Deciding on the length of term you want will depend partly on whether you think interest rates will go up or down. Keep in mind that the longer the term you choose, the longer your monthly payment remains stable.
CAUTION: The lender is not obligated to renew your mortgage loan at the end of the term.
A general guideline is to allow no more than 30% of your gross monthly income (before deductions) to make your monthly housing payments. This test of your ability to repay a mortgage loan is generally referred to as the Gross Debt Service Ratio.
Complete the following calculation to determine the approximate amount you may be able to afford for the mortgage payment, the property taxes and, where applicable, 50% of the strata maintenance fees.
Some lenders will require that this total maximum monthly payment also covers heating costs.
If you have other monthly financial obligations, such as car or credit card payments, the lending institution will also apply the Total Debt Service Ratio test to determine the maximum mortgage loan for which you can qualify.
$ ____ Your monthly housing payment
$ ____ Your calculated monthly debt payments (car, credit card, etc.)
$ ____ Total monthly payment
A general guideline should be that the total of your monthly housing payment added to your other monthly debt payments should not exceed 40% of your monthly gross income.
The Gross Debt Service Ratio and the Total Debt Service Ratio tests protect both you and the lender by ensuring that you do not take on more debt that you can reasonably afford to repay.
Many lending institutions will prequalify you for a specific size and type of mortgage loan before you begin searching for your new home. Taking the time to apply for a pre-approved mortgage will give you the security of knowing how much you can afford to spend.
Before concluding the loan agreement, most lending institutions will require an appraisal of your selected home.
The appraised value is a professional opinion of the value of the home and may differ from the purchase price you are willing to pay. The appraised value may affect the approved value of the loan.
It’s easy to count your available cash, but remember that all of these cash savings cannot be used as your down-payment. There are last-minute costs, such as taxes, legal fees, appraisal fees, moving expenses, and home insurance to pay before you are finally in your new home. The time to budget for those “end” expenses is now.
You must be prepared to pay most, and perhaps all, of the following closing costs.
Property Transfer Tax – The British Columbia Provincial Government imposes a property transfer tax, which must be paid before any home can be legally transferred to a new owner. Some buyers may be exempt from this tax. For further information, please view the Property Transfer Tax office website — will open in a new tab.
Goods & Services Tax – If you purchase a newly constructed home, you may be subject to GST on the purchase price. There may be some rebates available depending on the value of the home. For further information, contact the Canada Revenue Agency at www.cra-arc.gc.ca — will open in a new tab.
Property Tax – If the current owners have already paid the full year’s property taxes to the municipality, you will have to reimburse them for your share of the year’s taxes.
Appraisal Fee – When the lending institution requires an appraisal of the home before approving your loan, it may be your responsibility to pay the appraiser’s fee.
Survey Fee – The lending institution may also require that a survey certificate be presented to them. The purpose of the survey is to formally establish the boundaries of the property and to ensure that all buildings are within those boundaries.
Lending institutions may ask for either a building location survey, which establishes where a building is located on a property, or a monumental survey, which establishes the actual boundaries of a property. If the current owner cannot provide a recent survey certificate, it will be your responsibility to pay the surveyor’s fee.
Mortgage Application Fee – Lending institutions may charge a mortgage application fee. This application fee may vary between lending institutions.
Mortgage Default Insurance – This type of insurance is required on most mortgage loans in excess of 75% of the appraised home value. Its purpose is to ensure that the lender will not lose any money if you cannot make your mortgage payments and the value of your home is not sufficient to repay your mortgage debt.
The insurance premium is paid to the lender and, in most cases, is added to the loan amount and paid for over the term of the loan.
Life & Disability Mortgage Insurance – At your option, you may purchase insurance which will ensure that your outstanding mortgage balance is paid if you die or become disabled.
Fire & Liability Insurance – The mortgage lender will insist that you purchase an insurance policy which guarantees that, in the event of fire, the lender will receive the balance owing on the mortgage loan before you receive any insurance proceeds.
Legal Fees – The transfer of home ownership from the seller to the buyer must be recorded in the Land Title and Survey Authority Office in order to protect the new owner’s interests.
You will probably want to engage a lawyer or notary public to act on your behalf during the completion of your purchase. The lawyer or notary public will charge a fee for this service, plus disbursements, including the Land Title Registration fee.
If you are financing your purchase with a new mortgage loan, there will be a further fee and disbursements to prepare and register the mortgage documents.
Other last-minute costs you shouldn’t forget to set some money aside for:
It is important that you consider the needs of all the people your new home must shelter and what effect their daily activities will have on your desire for a certain size or location, both now and in the future.
Thinking about some of the following factors will help you determine where and what you should purchase.
In British Columbia, the person you hire to assist you to purchase your home must be licensed under the provincial Real Estate Services Act.
Early in your first meeting with a real estate professional, they should provide you with full disclosure about the nature of their relationship with you. They are required by law to provide this information and explain its implications to you.
When providing real estate services, the nature of the relationship that is created between the buyer or seller and the real estate brokerage, including its related professionals, is important.
The relationship may be either a sole agency, dual agency, or no agency relationship. Dual agency is banned in BC, except in rare circumstances.
Where a real estate professional acts only for a buyer or the seller of a property, they have a “sole agency” relationship. The buyer or seller is known as the “client”. There are different types of sole agency relationships.
One type of sole agency is known as “designated agency’. In this type of relationship, the real estate brokerage and the client agree that the brokerage will designate one or more real estate professionals engaged at the brokerage to provide real estate services to the client. In designated agency, the licensee’s brokerage has contractual duties to the client but it is the designated agents who act as sole agent on behalf of the client.
As an agent, a real estate professional has certain duties to their clients. In addition to the general obligation that all real estate professionals have to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill in performing all assigned duties, an agent has:
In designated agency, the brokerage and the client agree that these duties – other than the duty shared with the designated agents to keep the confidences of the client, and the holding of money on behalf of the client – are the responsibility of the designated agents.
In BC real estate professionals cannot practice dual agency, which means they cannot act for both a buyer and a seller, or two buyers, in the same transaction. There is an exception established for remote locations where it’s simply not feasible for buyers and sellers to be represented by two separate real estate agents. In that situation, dual agency can be practiced, with the consent of both clients, so that consumers at least have access to limited representation.
In those rare cases where a brokerage can act for both the buyer and the seller, with their agreement, the nature of the relationship created by contract is one of dual agency. In brokerage agency, dual agency can occur when the same licensee engaged by the brokerage represents the buyer and seller, or where a different licensee engaged by the same brokerage represent the buyer and the seller. Before a brokerage may represent both the buyer and the seller, the buyer and seller must consent to such a relationship. Before providing their consent, the buyer and seller should be fully informed regarding the limits that will be placed on the agent’s (brokerage’s) duties and obligations to the buyer and seller.
Designated agency allows two clients who have engaged the same brokerage to have independent representation by their respective designated agents, eliminating the occurrence of ‘in-house’ dual agency where the interests of those clients are in conflict, e.g. they wish to negotiate in relation to the same property.
Where a dual agency relationship has been agreed to, it is not possible for the agent (brokerage or its designated agent) to fulfill all of its duties to both parties. As a result, the duties are limited by contract and the sole agent, whether the brokerage or its designated agents as the case may be, become dual agents, with their duties being limited as follows:
A brokerage or its designated agent may also agree with a buyer or seller that they will not act as an agent on their behalf in a transaction. In other words, there will be no agency representation. In such a case, the buyer or the seller will be the “unrepresented party”, not the client of the brokerage or its designated agent.
This may occur when a real estate professional already has an agency relationship with a seller, for example, and a buyer becomes interested in the seller’s property. In this situation, the real estate professional is not permitted to recommend or suggest a price, negotiate on the unrepresented party’s behalf, inform the unrepresented party of their client’s bottom line price point or disclose any confidential information about their client unless otherwise authorized by the client. However, the real estate professional can provide an unrepresented party with other services, such as:
You can expect services such as:
Keep in mind that if the real estate professional with whom you are working is the seller’s agent, any information you give to him or her must be passed on to the seller.
It is in your best interest to discuss with that real estate professional only what you would discuss with the seller in person.
Now it’s time to begin your informed search for that “right” home. You have gathered all the information you need to make a rational decision rather than an emotional one, but it may not be easy! You, like everyone else, will probably want what you can’t afford. Try not to become discouraged. Every homeowner started somewhere and it is most likely that there is a place for you!
After you have found a home, don’t be shy! You are about to invest a lot of money and you should investigate each home thoroughly.
Pay particular attention to the following:
Each home is unique. Keep some notes to help you to remember the details later!
If you think you have found the right home, but you have some concerns about its structural soundness, now is the time to call in an expert. Consider having the home inspected by a building inspection service which will prepare a written report. Your purchase is a big investment, so think of the fee for this service as an insurance premium.
Be aware that home inspections are primarily visual inspections and they may not reveal problems with electrical or gas systems. If there is evidence that there are some issues with the electrical or gas systems and/or work has been done without appropriate permits, you should consider having people with qualifications in those areas inspect those systems.
Sometimes when dealing in real estate, the onus will be on you, the buyer, to ask questions regarding issues of specific importance to you and your family, rather than relying on a real estate professional to try to anticipate all of your needs.
If, as a potential buyer, you are concerned about the less obvious structural and mechanical aspects of a property, you can have a property inspection done. However, sometimes consumers may have other areas of concern that would cause them to avoid a property. Certain events may cause a property to be described as a “stigmatized property” or a “psychologically impacted property”. These terms are sometimes applied to a property that has had some circumstance occur in or near it, but which does not specifically affect the appearance or function of the property itself.
Examples of these in a residential context might include:
British Columbia law does not define stigmatized properties. It also does not require sellers or real estate professionals who represent them to disclose circumstances which some may be considered to be stigmas.
Buyers are advised to carefully consider the areas of concern they have, discuss their concerns with the real estate professional representing them, and ensure the necessary inquiries are made to avoid purchasing a property they will not feel comfortable living in.
In British Columbia, sellers may have completed a Property Disclosure Statement. This statement provides information about the state of the home to potential buyers.
The zoning on a home is established by the local government. Zoning sets the type of buildings which may be built on any particular piece of property and how those buildings may be used: single-family residential, duplexes, multi-family residential, commercial, or industrial.
You may also wish to ask about the zoning on the surrounding properties to determine if, for instance, a factory or a park could suddenly appear nearby.
A Land Title Search will allow you to see who is registered as the current owner of the home and if there are any registered mortgages, easements, restrictive covenants, rights of way, etc. which may affect the use or value of the home.
A restrictive covenant places a specific limitation on the owner’s use or occupancy of the property. Such things as a prohibited type of exterior finish, the minimum size of the structure, or the maximum height of the structure are only a few examples of the type of restrictive covenants you may encounter.
The act of purchasing a property which has a restrictive covenant compels you to abide by it.
An easement is a right or privilege one party has to use the land of another for a special purpose.
Examples are: easements given to telephone and electric companies to erect poles and run lines over private property, easements given to people to drive or walk across someone else’s land, and easements given to gas and water companies to run pipelines to serve their customers.
As stated earlier, the amount of property taxes payable will figure in the calculation of how much money you can borrow to finance your purchase.
Homes built by a licensed residential builder under a building permit applied for on or after July 1, 1999, or where construction began on or after July 1, 1999 in areas where no building permit is required, are subject to the mandatory third-party warranty insurance provisions of the Homeowner Protection Act, unless there is an applicable exemption.
Your real estate professional can assist with acquiring warranty information.
The Licensing and Consumer Services branch of BC Housing can assist with questions regarding warranty issues. You can reach their toll-free information line at 1.800.407.7757 or visit their website at www.bchousing.org/licensing-consumer-services — will open in a new tab.
Things contained in a building or on the land are classified as either fixtures or chattels.
The difference between a fixture and a chattel is very important to you because fixtures stay with the home when it is sold, but chattels depart with the old owner.
If you see an attractive fireplace insert, a “murphy bed” in the spare bedroom closet, a vacuum canister in the utility, or custom window blinds which you think should stay, but are not certain if the seller agrees, ask if it is a fixture.
Are there permits in place for building and/or renovation work and for the electrical and gas systems including original and alterations/additions?
For information on what type of work in a home requires gas and electric permits, please contact Technical Safety BC — will open in a new tab at 1-866-566-7233.
If you are contemplating the purchase of a home which involves the strata or cooperative type of ownership, there are some additional points to consider:
If the parking stalls or storage lockers are designated common property, owners are entitled to use a particular area as a result of the strata council’s grant of exclusive use to that owner. This designation is handled by way of a short-term exclusive use agreement whereby the strata council allows the owner to exclusively use a particular parking stall or storage locker for a limited time period of one year. Although the strata council can renew the arrangement, it can also choose not to renew.
In some strata developments, the developer has entered into a lease of the common property parking stalls and storage lockers to itself or to a company related to the developer. After leasing the common property, the developer then enters into agreements with buyers in which the developer subleases one or more parking stalls or storage lockers to each buyer. Often, the developer will assign one parking stall or storage locker to a buyer. These leases are seldom registered on title, which can make discovering them a challenge.
the parking stall or storage locker is limited common property. Limited common property (LCP) is common property for the exclusive use of the owner of a particular strata lot. If the property is designated LCP, although it continues to be owned by all owners within the strata corporation as tenants in common, it may be used exclusively by the owner whose strata lot is identified on the strata plan as being entitled to use the LCP.
What information should you obtain about the building? Ask to see the registered bylaws, current rules, annual operating fund budget, Information Certificate (Form B prescribed under the Strata Property Act) and at least the last two-years’ minutes of all meetings (including strata council meetings, annual or special general meetings and meetings of the executive (or of the members) of any section in the strata corporation to which the strata lot belongs).
You should also ask to see any applicable warranty information, envelope inspection reports or remediation reports, the registered strata plan and any amendments or resolutions dealing with the common property and any correspondence to owners from the strata council over the last twelve months. These documents will govern the manner in which your unit and the common areas may be used. They will also advise you of what has been going on in the building.
Read these documents very carefully as they may reveal potential problems in the building.
You have a property on which you want to make an offer!
You may want to consider engaging the services of experts to provide inspections and reports on important components of a property. These services may be engaged prior to you making an offer or, more commonly, you may make your offer subject to you receiving and being satisfied with applicable inspections or reports. The cost of commissioning any inspection or report will vary and should be factored into your overall purchasing budget.
The types of inspections and reports you may wish to obtain will depend on the type of property — is it a detached house, a strata titled unit, or a recreational property? The mechanical and service components, and geographic location of the property are also considerations when deciding on the kinds of inspections and reports to review.
Below is a list of the more common inspections and reports that are available to buyers. The list is organized alphabetically, not by order of importance, as the degree of importance of a particular inspection or report will depend on the specific nature of the property.
You may request other inspections or reports concerning specific components of a property, such as the roof, air conditioner, or any other component where the condition of that component would be material to your decision to buy a property.
Once you have found the home you would like, a written offer to purchase must be prepared.
Considering the substantial nature of this investment, you should work with a lawyer, notary public, or a real estate professional when preparing an offer to purchase. An offer is usually recorded on a standard form entitled Contract of Purchase and Sale.
When you prepare an offer, it should contain a number of standard details, plus any conditions which are important to you. Be fully aware that once you sign this document and the seller also signs it, a legally binding contract has been formed. Legally binding means both you and the seller will be bound by the terms of the contract and must each perform your respective obligations as stated within that contract. Either of you can go to court to compel the other to perform his or her part of the contract. Even if a contract contains subject clauses, it is legally binding as soon as both the buyer and the seller have signed the contract.
Your offer should include:
When the seller receives your “offer to purchase,” he or she has four options.
If the seller signs your offer without making any changes, a legally binding contract has been formed. Again, legally binding means both you and the seller will be bound by the terms of the contract and must each perform your respective obligations as stated. Your performance can be enforced in a court of law.
The seller is under no obligation to accept your offer or to make a counter-offer.
The seller is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of your offer.
If the seller changes anything at all on your original offer, the seller is considered to have rejected your offer and to be making a new offer back to you. This new offer is usually referred to as a “counter-offer.”
When you receive a counter-offer, you then have the same three options as the seller had: accept, reject or make a further counter-offer. The process of counter-offers may continue until an agreement is reached.
If the counter-offer is unacceptable to you or if you have changed your mind about the purchase, the seller does not have the option of returning to your original offer and accepting it.
If, after making a written offer, you decide you don’t want to purchase the home, it may be possible to revoke the offer. Many legal problems can result from the revocation of an offer, so you should seek professional advice about the correct procedure to follow.
The purpose of a subject clause (also known as a condition precedent) contained in an offer to purchase
is to set out a specific condition which must be fulfilled before the sale can go through, although the
contract is legally binding once it is signed by both parties.Subject clauses must be carefully and
precisely worded. You would be wise to get professional help in composing them; however, it is
ultimately your responsibility to be sure the clauses mean what you want them to mean.
There can be as many subject clauses as you are able to negotiate with the seller; however, the fewer you put into an offer, the more serious you seem as a buyer and the better the chance is that your offer will be accepted. Remember that you are, in effect, asking the seller to take the home off the market during the period while you are attempting to fulfill the conditions you have set.
Some possible items you might wish your purchase to be “subject” to include:
When you place “subject” clauses on your offer to purchase, you are required to use every reasonable effort to see that the conditions are satisfied. It is important to know that subject clauses are not “escape” clauses that allow you to avoid your legal responsibilities in the contract. Once you have fulfilled the conditions, written notification should be given to the seller that you are removing the subject clauses.
If you are unable to meet the conditions after making every reasonable effort to do so, the contract ends and there is no legal obligation to complete the purchase. It is important to remember that if the brokerage is holding your deposit, both you and the seller must sign a deposit release form prior to the deposit being released to you.
A seller may wish to accept your offer containing subject clauses, yet still be free to consider other offers until you have removed the conditions. To allow him or herself this freedom, the seller may ask for a clause in the agreement which permits the seller to require you to remove all subject conditions within a short, specified time period (usually between 24 and 72 hours) if the seller receives another attractive offer. If you cannot do so, your conditional contract comes to an end. Sellers are most likely to request this time clause where you have made an offer which is subject to the sale of your current home.
Usually, you will make a deposit with your offer to purchase or after your offer is accepted. That deposit is usually held in your brokerage’s trust account. The brokerage holds the deposit for the benefit of the transaction, not just for your benefit. Note: If your contract contains subject clauses in your favour and you do not remove those clauses, you will not automatically get your deposit back. Both you and the seller will have to sign a separate release form. If the seller will not sign the release, you will have to obtain legal advice, as your brokerage cannot release the deposit unless you and the seller have agreed to do so.
Unless the contract specifically states that any interest earned on a deposit will be payable to either the seller or the buyer, interest is payable to the Real Estate Foundation of BC.
If a deposit is to be held by someone other than a real estate brokerage, you should obtain independent legal advice to ensure there is no concern about either how the deposit is to be held or the terms upon which it may be released.
The Contract of Purchase and Sale, which you signed, will state the completion day for the transaction. On that day, legal ownership will transfer from the old owner to you in exchange for the purchase price of the home. You will be able to move in on the possession date stated on your contract. The completion and possession dates are not necessarily on the same date.
It is normal practice for the buyer to engage a lawyer or notary public to prepare the documents necessary to transfer the legal ownership.
Among other things, he or she will protect your interests by:
The day has arrived! You have signed the documents, turned over your cheque, and received the keys. The home is yours!
If a concern develops for a consumer as a result of real estate services provided by a real estate professional, the following steps should be considered:
RECBC can investigate any complaint about the conduct of a real estate professional in his or her handling of your real estate transaction. RECBC is authorized to discipline a real estate professional found guilty of professional misconduct.
RECBC does not have the authority to require a real estate professional to perform under the terms of a contract, nor does RECBC have any jurisdiction over sellers who have not performed under the contract. RECBC cannot award damages to a complainant from a real estate professional. Those matters may require legal action.