by Amy Lillard
In the midst of one of the most uncertain real estate markets in history, it's more important than ever to be informed. In a continuing series, we take a look at some of the most pressing questions about mortgages, refinancing, home equity, and other real estate options available to you.
(10/6/2012) New and experienced homebuyers often realize the benefits of working with a real estate agent and a mortgage broker. But what about a lawyer, specifically one with real estate focus?
Lawyers are not always required by states for the homebuying process. But similar to have an agent or broker, a lawyer can be an extremely helpful resource to have in your corner throughout the process.
A lawyer's guidance can first be useful during the process of making an offer. Many condominium associations, home management companies, and other sellers use a standard form to accept offers and propose counteroffers. Often, these forms are highly involved. A lawyer can help navigate the legal-ese, ensure there are no hidden surprises or neglected items, and educate the homebuyer on what is included in the home purchase.
Occasionally buyers may need to conduct the offer process quickly, or forgo the back and forth and sign a contract immediately. The time table may not allow for an initial legal consultation, but buyers can include language in the contract to allow for attorney review over a period of five business days or less.
Lawyers can also play a bigger or smaller role in these initial proceedings depending on the property and the lawyer. They may provide a cursory review, or go so far as to prepare the contracts themselves.
Perhaps the biggest role lawyers can play in the home buying process is at the closing. There is a large amount of paperwork that must be signed to officially transfer ownership to the homebuyer at close. Lawyers will review the documents prior to the close, and at the closing date, can walk the buyer through each and every document - the deed, bill of sale, mortgage, promissory note, title commitment, closing statement, and more. At that time, he or she can answer questions, point out specific things to pay attention to, and ensure that any lingering issues (repairs that were agreed upon as part of the purchase, for example) are taken care of.
Before and at the close, another key help lawyers will provide is to determine the condition of the seller's title to the property. The lawyer will determine if the seller is indeed the legal owner of the property, if there are fees that need to be settled before transfer, and if there are any restrictions or other stipulations. This is a critical step that can help avoid painful problems in the future.
Lawyers work for a specific fee that is usually agreed to upon engagement. These will vary by attorney, but often range between $500 to $1,500.
For Additional Reading:
Should You Hire a Real Estate Agent or Lawyer to Buy a House?
5 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Attorney:
Real Estate: Selectiong a Good Lawyer
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