Happy February! Believe it or not, although the weather may not feel like it, we have officially entered “Spring”, at least as far as the real estate market is concerned. In recent years, February is the month when many of you who are considering buying a home start to check out what’s on the market and get ready to make a move. If you are one of those people, I strongly urge you to make one of your first calls be to a local real estate attorney.
If this is your first home purchase, if you haven’t purchased a home in many years, or even if you’ve been through the process more recently, buying a home can be confusing. Although it is already a costly process, most people would be well served by spending a little extra money and hiring an experienced real estate lawyer to assist them. Remember, a home is probably the largest single purchase you will make. You don’t want to be “penny wise and pound foolish.” Most real estate attorneys will charge less than $1000 for their services. Depending on the transaction, that could be money well-spent and could save considerable money down the road, not to mention time and aggravation.
Many people are under the misconception that because their mortgage lender has an attorney who will act as the closing agent, it’s not necessary to have their own attorney and the lender’s attorney will just “take care of everything.” However, you should understand that the lender’s closing attorney represents the interests of the lender. It is not the responsibility of the closing attorney to advise you on your rights and obligations regarding your new home purchase. Some of the services that your own lawyer can provide are:
1. Negotiate and prepare the Offer to Purchase and Purchase and Sale Agreement (also known as the “P&S”) to protect your interests and address your concerns.
2. Resolve issues that may arise while your purchase is pending and assist you if you are also selling real estate in order to have the funds to purchase your new home.
3. Explain the mortgage process and assist you in understanding just what the lender’s commitment letter says and what you will be required to do or obtain before the lender will allow you to close.
4. Assist in the coordination of the closing and represent you at the closing, review all closing documents and explain their meaning and significance to you.
5. Answer questions you may have and resolve disputes that may arise at any time during the process.
Of course, not all situations will require all of the above services, but its good to be prepared. Also, it is very important for you to you hire an attorney before you sign the P&S. Remember, this critical document, which acts as the contract between you and the Seller, is often drafted by the Real Estate Broker, who is generally an agent for the Seller. While almost all brokers will act in a professional and ethical manner, as Seller’s agents, they are under no obligation to present terms that are favorable to you. An experienced attorney can ensure that certain key provisions are included in the P&S to provide you with maximum protection.
However, even if you do not hire an attorney until after you have signed the P&S, the attorney can still perform many of the important functions noted above, especially in resolving issues immediately before or at the closing.
So remember, when entering into such an important transaction, it's always best to have an experienced professional on your side who has no interest in the transaction except to protect and advocate for you. An experienced real estate lawyer can save you aggravation, time and money.
Andy Schwartz is an attorney concentrating in estate planning, elder law, special needs planning and real estate law. He is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Real Estate Bar Association of Massachusetts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (508) 587-6000 with questions or comments, or check out his website at www.brocktonlaw.com.
The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. For specific legal advice regarding a specific legal issue please contact Attorney Schwartz or another attorney directly.