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Working With Your Real Estate Attorney
Purchasing or selling a home will probably be one of your largest and most important financial transactions. Before signing a contract to purchase or sell a home, both buyer and seller should consult an attorney to assure that the real estate transaction will be handled legally and professionally.
Although an attorney is not a required part of the process, particularly in many states where escrow companies will attend to all closing transaction details, an attorney can protect your interests and help you resolve any potential legal problems before entering a legally binding contract.
Sometimes buyers feel the need to sign a contract quickly and don’t have time to initially consult an attorney. In these cases, buyers can include language in the contract that will allow their attorney time to give final approval on the agreement – usually within three to five business days. This allows both buyers and sellers to expedite the contract process without fear of inadequate legal representation.
Sellers and buyers alike should familiarize themselves with the real estate transaction process before selecting an attorney. Learning the formal steps in the transaction will help buyers and sellers choose the right attorney and proceed with confidence. Throughout the process, attorneys should attend to a variety of responsibilities, including consultation prior to the signing of the contract, preparing or approving the contract, examining documents and supervising the closing of the transaction.
The attorney should be responsible for preparing or evaluating documents which may be necessary for completing transfer of the property. There are usually several documents to prepare in any real estate transaction, and the attorney can evaluate and explain each document to the buyer or seller whom he or she represents. The deed, the bill of sale, mortgage, promissory note, title commitment and the closing statement are only a few of the important documents that an attorney should review with the seller or buyer prior to the closing.
One of the attorney’s most important responsibilities in the real estate transaction is to determine the condition of the seller’s title to the property. Through this process, the attorney will discover if the seller is the legal owner of the property and if there is an unpaid mortgage or lien which must be settled before the title to the property can be properly transferred. The attorney will also discover any restrictions or easements which are on the property and the status of any unpaid property taxes or assessments.
The buyer, the seller and their attorneys usually appear together at a final meeting to review all closing documents. As this meeting, usually referred to as the “closing,” the attorneys help explain, sign and exchange the documents and approve or clear up any remaining financial matters relating to the transaction. After the transaction is closed, an attorney will attend to any final details such as properly recording the deed, mortgage or other necessary documents and issuing title insurance policies.
Many attorneys are specialized, and it is important that you choose one who knows real estate terminology and real estate transaction processes. Before hiring someone, you should discuss all the details of the transaction with your possible candidate, including all legal costs you will incur.
The attorney’s duty in any real estate transaction is to provide legal expertise. Through sound advice and thorough execution of all legal responsibilities, a good attorney will help you complete your transaction swiftly and with confidence.