The main reason for using a lawyer or notary is to be sure that when you pay for it the property is transferred into your name free of encumbrances. The property you are buying could have a mortgage (s) on it or also judgements, liens, restrictive covenants, and other charges and you want to be sure these are removed or accepted by you before or at the same time you pay for the property. I can't see how this could practically be done without the services of a lawyer or notary.
I thought the OP was just asking for how to get hold of title to check on ownership...nothing more. Best I know is there is a fee charged by the Land Titles office whenever someone wants to do a search. In AB, it is as simple as going to a registry agent and paying the requisite $25 or so.
You can find out a lot by looking up the tax records. These are public records open to anybody free of charge. Go to the tax office of the appropriate municipality. You will need the street address. While you are there get the roll number and legal description. Then you can look up all the details at the Registry Office but they charge a fee.
Why not call the Land Registry Office or Land Title Office or whatever they call it in TO and ask? I doubt they office a free abstract service, but you should be able to get a copy of the Certificate of Title (or whatever they call it there) at modest cost.
Also, rather than lawyers, I would expect there to be registry services out there that do cost-effective title searches. In BC, we have West Coast Title Search and others. The LRO should be able to point you to some, if you cannot pay the registry directly for the service. I do not know about now, but it used to be you could show up at the Vancouver LTO at 777 Hornby St., pay $1 for a "search ticket" and get a copy of a title to any land registered in Vancouver, which includes most of the lower mainland.
Back in the day, I used to walk into a land titles office in Ontario, give them a list of addresses I wanted searched. The clerk would pull out the appropriate books and I would flip to the appropriate pages and copy the information on owners and encumbrances. I would pay about 5.00 per search iirc.
These are all electronic now through teranet which is accessable by lawyers banks etc with a subscription, but are still available in person at any ontario titles office. I believe the fee is about 25.00
Or a search agent will charge you about $60.00 like this one https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&sour...ggvMAc&usg=AFQjCNHYC4snrkDaxPz5-LQsWyJnxnuDdw.
Property tax records are public records. Anyone can walk into the tax office and look them up free of charge. If you want more details the Registry Office will have them but a search costs $8 for each property.
A forum community dedicated to Canadian personal finance enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about investing, stock portfolios, equities, frugality, real estate, market trading, taxation, retirement, and more!