No matter if you’re buying or selling a home, you are likely leaning on a realtor and other service providers like mortgage brokers, home inspectors, appraisers, and title companies in your transactions. But what about a real estate attorney?
How a real estate attorney helps you buy a house
Congrats, you have found the perfect house! As you move towards an agreement of sale, i.e., a contract that establishes the relationship between you and the seller, here are the advantages of having an attorney construct or review this document:
- Protection – when it comes to the state of the property, contingencies, and any unusual circumstances, an attorney scrutinizes contracts and incorporates language in an attempt to limit your liability, honor your interests, and preserve your ability to walk away, should anything not go as planned.
- Attention to Detail – sometimes unique home features are left out of an agreement of sale, leaving the parties frustrated and at odds at closing. An attorney will work with you to incorporate the details unique to the home into the sale agreement, modifying or adding clarifying language, and reviewing optional clauses and disclosures to ensure both parties understand the transaction.
- Negotiation & Dispute Resolution – should a dispute or discrepancy arise, you have an attorney in your corner advocating for you. Rarely does a real estate transaction happen without some negotiation required, as this level of investment is sizeable and one you want to know is safe and secure.
The next phase of the process is due diligence, ensuring all the things agreed upon this far come to fruition, abiding with any timelines or contingencies you may have in place. In this home-buying phase, expect home appraisals, inspections, and more. An experienced residential real estate attorney can offer guidance about:
- Zoning – if you want to add a pool or dream of running a business out of your home, an attorney can help you understand local ordinances, i.e., what you can and cannot do on the property, and navigate issues that may arise.
- Title search and insurance – while a quick deal may entice you to forgo a title search, it’s wise to get title insurance and have an attorney’s office review to see if there are any judgments, liens, easements, or encroachments against the property, making sure it can be successfully transferred to you and you can utilize the property as you wish.
- Seller’s disclosure or inspection issues – it’s possible for a home inspector to unearth an issue that the seller was unaware of or perhaps withheld from the seller’s disclosure. As attorney’s fees are not contingent on closing, they can help negotiate issues and provide independent counsel, which sometimes includes advising clients to walk away.
In the closing process, which can feel very daunting, an attorney can carefully review and translate legal language in closing documents to ensure you are comfortable as you sign your name what feels like hundreds of times and prepare to enjoy your new house!
How a real estate attorney helps you sell a house
Looking to list your house for sale? As an attorney can assist a buyer in each phase of the buying process – agreement of sale, due diligence, closing, and all the documents in between – they can represent you on the selling side. Unique to sellers, an attorney helps you with:
- Seller’s disclosure – what do you need to tell a buyer about your home? Pennsylvania law requires that the seller disclose any known material defects with the property. As a seller, you may wonder what you are obligated to share. What if the roof leaks after you have signed an agreement? An attorney can help you determine what to do and what to disclose to avoid disputes now and in the future.
- Title or zoning issues – should an issue arise with the title or zoning, an attorney can help you negotiate this with a buyer or potentially advise you to walk away and structure a new agreement with a new buyer.
- Deed preparation – this critical document is what truly transfers your property to another. Things like names, notations of the metes and bounds, a property’s lot number, and more must be accurate to avoid future issues for the buyer or potential lawsuits against you. Having an attorney oversee the preparation of this document can help ensure a truly successful closing!
Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2024 Edition of Network Magazine © 2024 All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.