A residential real estate transaction can be intimidating and complex but if done with proper professional guidance, can be gratifying. Selling or purchasing real estate is likely the largest financial obligation of a person's life. Having competent legal counsel can greatly reduce the stress and anxiety. Legal representation strives to remove the intimidation and legal complexities of the real estate transfer. Often, many issues can arise and Real Estate Malpractice can occur between Agents and Brokers with Buyers and Sellers.
A General Practice Lawyer May Not Be Enough
Lawyers who practice outside of real estate law likely have limited contact with real estate transactions. Their narrow knowledge may be enough to handle a simplistic situation, but as the landscape of residential transactions have become complex, retaining a lawyer who practices real estate law makes sound business sense. The laws, procedures, regulations and required documents of real estate are continuously updated and changed. It is extremely important to retain an attorney who works within the area of real estate law, who understands those changes and is able to incorporate the updated procedures in your deal. You need a legal advocate in any residential matter to help minimize your financial risk. A residential real estate lawyer may be the most important step as you begin your property purchase negotiations.
If you are a buyer you will likely hire a home inspector to look for defects and problems at the property, a lender to create the loan and a title company to generate title. All of those services are important and are performed by professionals in those areas.
But who is reviewing and explaining the purchase and sale documents with your best interests in mind? Who is reviewing the deed and title report on your behalf? Certainly not the other side or their representatives. You could rely on your real estate professional but they are truly a sales person performing a sales job and legally and under state law can not give you legal advice.
Only an attorney who has concentrated legal experience in residential real estate transactions can give you what I term a "legal inspection" of your transaction. Before you sign any documents ask yourself; is this the time and place to begin self explanation and negotiation of significant legal documents that will have a lasting effect on my personal and financial decision?
So what is a Legal Inspection?
It is a comprehensive review of all documents pertaining to your transaction. This includes most importantly the drafting and /or reviewing of your Agreement of Sale (purchase agreement), the listing agreement (for sellers), the agency agreement (for Buyers) , title reports, mortgage documents, and settlement statements. You need a legal inspection if you do not know the answers to the following questions (and there are many others):
- What terms of your Agreement of Sale are negotiable?
- What are your obligations once you sign the Agreement of Sale?
- What is a Seller's Property Disclosure Statement, and when is it required?
- Who holds down payment (earnest money) and how much is appropriate?
- What is a mortgage contingency and how does it affect your transaction?
- What is a home inspection contingency and what option is best for you?
- What is title insurance, a title commitment and what issues are involved in a title encumbrance?
- What are the common pitfalls encountered by "for sale by owner" sellers?
- What is the best way to handle environmental issues such as mold or termites?
- Can you terminate the Agreement of Sale?
- What are liquidated damages?
- What charges should you expect at the property settlement or closing?
The Most Important Advice
Real estate can be a rewarding experience, if you have the right professionals guiding you through the process. There are many complex documents to read with substantial amounts of money changing hands; your best investment in the process is to retain a real estate attorney to guide you and protect your interests. If you take away one piece of advice from my site it is this: call an attorney who routinely handles residential transactions before you sign any documents!
You will find that having a real estate attorney for your residential transaction is the best investment spent as you buy or sell a residential property. Peace of mind is an investment that will pay dividends for years.
- This article is provided for informational purposes only, and nothing stated here should be construed as legal advise. If you need help with a real estate law problem, click here to contact Howard Jaffe or a Real Estate Lawyer in your area.