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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.


      • Fiona Rourke says:

        If there are 2 names on the agreement and 1 wants to leave and the other wants to remain… does the removing of 1 purchaser constitute an assignment

        • Brendan Powell says:

          An assignment is one way to add or remove people from a contract, but not the only way…and not the simplest. Speak to your lawyer for advice on what makes the most sense for your specific situation.
          For a straightforward resale purchase you could probably just do an amendment signed by all parties. If it’s a preconstruction purchase with various deposits paid, etc it could be more complicated.

  1. Is there any difference in transaction process If assigner or seller of a pre constructio condo is a non resident ? Is seller required to get a clearance certificate from cRA to complete the transaction ?

  2. Amazing info. Thanks team. I may just touch base with you when my property in Stoney Creek is completed in. 2020. I may need to reassign it to someone

  3. Victoria Bachlowa says:

    If an assignor renegs on the deal and refuses to close because they figured out they could get more money and the assignment was already approved by the builder and all conditions fulfilled what can the Assignee do. I have $33,000 dollars in trust in the real estate’s trust fund. They sent me a mutual release which I have not signed. The interim occupancy is Feb. 1 and the closing is schedule for Mar. 1, 2019. I have financing in place, was ready to move in Feb. 1 and I have no where to live.

    • Melanie Piche says:

      Definitely talk to your lawyer right away. They’ll want to look at your agreement of purchase and sale and will be able to advise you.

  4. 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.
    Can I assume that these closing happen at the same time? I’m not sure how and when I would be paid as the Assignor.

    • Hi, Did you get answer to this? I did an assignment sale last year and now the builder is not completing apparently and they are asking for their money back. Can they do that? After legal transactions, the lawyer simply said “the deal didn’t go through”. Apparently builder and the person who assumed the assignment agreed on taking out the deal. What do I have to pay back after it was done a year ago

      • Brendan Powell says:

        This is definitely a question for your lawyer – as realtors we are not involved in that part of the transaction. I would expect that just as the builder would have to refund your deposits, you would likely need to do the same…but talk to your lawyer.
        As to whether the builder can cancel a project, yes they always reserve that right (but the details of how and under what circumstances would be in your original purchase agreement). It’s one of the annoying risks in buying preconstruction!

  5. I completed the sale of my assignment in Dec 2015 however the CRA says I should be reporting the capital income in 2016
    when the assignee closed his deal with the developer in July 2016. That makes no sense to me since I got all my money in Dec 2015.
    Can you supply any clarification on that CRA policy please?

  6. Hello,
    You said that there are two closings. The first one between the assignor and the assignee and the second one between the builder and the new buyer (assignee).
    My question is that in the first closing does the assignee have to pay the assignor the deposit they have paid and any profit in cash or will the bank add this to the assignee’s mortgage?

      • Brendan Powell says:

        Hi Kathy
        While we do few assignments (as they are rarely successful, and builders do not make it easy), in past we have charged more or less the same as we do for a typical resale listing. While there are elements to assignments that should be easier than a resale (eg staging), many other aspects of assignments are much MORE time-consuming, and the risk much higher since attempts to find a buyer for assignments are often unsuccessful.
        It’s also important to note that due to the extra complication, lawyer’s fees to assign are typically higher than resale as well–although more $ for the purchase side vs the sale side.

  7. Mitul Patel says:

    If assignee has paid small amount of deposit plus the original 25% deposit that the assignor has paid to the builder and gets the Keys to the unit since interim possession has been completed, when the condo registration is done and assignee is getting mortgage from the Bank or Pays the remaining balance to the Builder using his savings and decides not to pay the Balance of the Profit amount to Assignor, what are the possibilities in this kind of scenario?

    • Realtors set their own commission, so there is no set fee- that website is likely the commission that that agent offers. We often see commissions of 4-5% for assignments. The fee is a % of the price of the assignment – for example, you originally bought for $500K; you’re now assigning for $600K – commission would be payable on the $600K.

  8. Question: if i bought a pre construction condo, can i sell it as soon as it closes or do i have to live in it for 1 year after closing in order to avoid capital gains taxes?

    Or does the 1 year start as soon as you move in?

    • I would suggest you talk to your accountant re: HST credit implications and capital gains, but if you sell it for more than you paid for it, capital gains usually apply.

  9. You mention avoid paying HST when you assign your property. What is the HST based on? It’s not a commercial property that you would pay HST. Explain. Thanks.

  10. heres one for your comment, purchase pre construction from builder beginning of 2021, to be finished end of 2021, (semi detached) here we are end of 2022, both units are now ready. Had one assigned but because builder didnt accept within certain time frame(they also had a 90 day clause wherein we couldnt assign prior to 90 less firm closing date (WHICH MOVED 4 TIMES).
    Anyrate now we have a new assinor but the builder says we are in default from the first one and wants 50k to do the assignment (the agreement lists the possibility of assigning for 12k)
    Also this deal would include us loosing our whole deposit and paying the 12k(plus fees) would be in addition too the 130k we are already loosing. The second property we are trying to close but interest rates are riducous, together with closing costs(currently mortgage company is asking that my wife be added to that one, afraid to even ask this builder. Any advice on how to deal with this asshole greedy builder?
    We are simply asking for assignment as per contract and a small extension for the new buyer(week or two)
    Appreciate any advice. Thank you

    • Brendan Powell says:

      Dealing with builders/developers can be extremely painful, much worse than resale transactions in our experience. Their contracts are written to protect THEM. Unfortunately all I can say is follow the advice of your lawyer.

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