Why you need a real estate attorney when buying a home
Buying a home is likely to be one of the most significant purchases you will make in your life. You sign reams of paperwork for both the loan and the purchase of the property itself. This purchase also involves real estate law, which raises special and unique practice questions and issues not present in other transactions. As a result, some states have begun to certify attorneys as “real estate specialists” because a real estate attorney is trained to handle these issues. The process of buying a home seems simple at first glance, and many people ask themselves the following question: “Do I really need to hire a real estate attorney?”
The purchase agreement may be the single most important document handled during the transaction. Of course, pre-printed electronic forms are helpful, but an attorney can explain the forms and make changes and/or additions as requested by the buyer and seller. Some typical issues that are usually addressed in a purchase agreement are as follows:
– What happens if the property is found to contain hazardous waste materials?
– What are the legal consequences if the closing does not take place on schedule? What happens to the down payment? (This question goes on to raise additional related questions: Will the down payment be held in escrow by an attorney? How will payment be made? Will closing be appropriately contingent on the buyer obtaining financing?)
– What happens if termites, asbestos or lead-based paint are found during a property inspection?
– If there is a change in the property or an extension, is it legal?
– If the buyer intends to alter the property, can the proposed plans be done legally?
If sellers seem unreasonable or ask for something out of the ordinary, this is usually a good time to call an advisor. An attorney can serve as great support for a real estate agent and can translate the legal jargon presented to you in the stack of documents. Brokers and escrow agents don’t get paid until after closing, so if something goes wrong at closing, they naturally tend to encourage you to sign the papers and close rather than create a hiccup. For example, if you discover a defect in the property on the day of closing, you need someone to inform you of your rights. Alternatively, the seller may promise to fix the problems at the property but still insist on closing. These promises must be included in a contract and approved by a lawyer.
Perhaps the most important reason to be represented by a real estate attorney is to resolve the conflicting interests of the parties involved. Buyers and sellers are often at odds throughout the process. Typically, the agent represents the seller, while the lender is obtained by the buyer. Unfortunately, neither of them can provide legal advice. Looking for an attorney to protect your own interests is a very good idea from the time you decide to sell or buy a home until the actual closing.
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