Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney?
Real estate attorneys provide important services to their clients and are often a sound investment.
A lawyer can help protect her client’s rights and guide the client to avoid certain pitfalls. However, not everyone gets a real estate attorney, instead relying on their realtor’s skill.
Read on to better understand whether you should have a lawyer in your corner.
Are You Buying or Selling a House?
Most people consider hiring a real estate lawyer in the context of buying or selling a home. Because a home is likely someone’s largest asset, they want everything to go as smoothly as possible and for there to be no surprises. Nevertheless, many buyers and sellers are worried about costs and would prefer not to pay for a lawyer.
Although some people handle their own closings, you would benefit from a lawyer’s help. Your lawyer can:
- Draft or review the purchase agreement
- Help you obtain financing
- Review the property’s title
- Handle home inspection issues
Your lawyer can also attend the closing with you to make sure that all documents are in order and that your rights are protected. Unfortunately, it is not unusual to show up at the closing table and to suddenly discover that mortgage documents and other information are different than what you had been expecting. In these situations, your lawyer can advise you about what to do, including not going through with the closing until the issue has been adequately addressed.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Different Matter?
Outside of buying a home, a real estate lawyer can be a big help when dealing with any type of land dispute. For example, you might be:
- Arguing with a neighbor about a land boundary
- Trying to establish adverse possession of land
- Fighting with a neighbor about whether they have a right of way on your land
- Appealing a property tax assessment
In these situations, it is very likely that you are in court already or might end up there if you cannot resolve the dispute amicably. Lawsuits have complicated rules that the average person cannot learn on their own. Furthermore, contested issues can take a considerable amount of time to prepare for adequately, including finding evidence. Unless you have legal training or endless hours to learn the law and court rules, you would benefit enormously from having a lawyer represent you in these disputes.
What are Some Problems with Titles?
As part of your closing, you will order a title report on the property. If you are taking out a mortgage, your lender will require this, so don’t think you can cut corners and avoid one.
A title report is an important document because it identifies whether there are problems with the chain of ownership. For example, there might be a gap in the title where you cannot find who held title during a particular date. Gaps like these can be unsettling because they raise the possibility that the property was not sold properly. A lawyer can analyze the title to uncover any problems and advise you about appropriate next steps if any title problems are found.
How Can a Lawyer Help with Purchase and Sale Agreements?
Many buyers and sellers reach an informal, oral agreement. However, the real controlling contract will be the purchase and sale agreement. This document includes a considerable amount of information, such as:
- purchase price
- items included in the sale or excluded from sale
- right to a final inspection
- who bears the risk of loss until closing
- the condition of the property upon closing
As the buyer or seller, you also want to protect yourself by including contingencies. As examples, buyers often want contingencies that the contract will not go through if there is a problem with the inspection or that the purchase is contingent on their obtaining financing or selling their home. If your contract does not contain these contingencies, then you are exposing yourself to a potential lawsuit.
But My Cousin Bought a House without a Lawyer
As mentioned above, some people can get by relying only on their realtor. However, you only get one chance to make sure everything goes by without incident. If you suddenly find yourself in a dispute, or if you did not protect your rights by including proper contingencies, then it can be very easy to not only lose the home but thousands of dollars as well.
Although you might think nothing could possibly go wrong, consider the following:
- Are you a buyer from out of town? If so, using a lawyer can make the purchase easier.
- Is the property you are buying part of an estate sale? If so, a lawyer can help you with the purchase.
- Are you buying from a bank as part of a short sale? These sales are different from regular sales, and your realtor might not know how to handle one.
- Is your partner not cooperating with the sale? If this situation applies to you, then a lawyer can help advise you.
- Are you selling a property that you know isn’t in great condition? You can expect problems with the inspection, so you will want a lawyer to guide you through the conflict.
These are only some of the considerations that might lead you to hire a lawyer to help you with buying or selling a house. Remember to always trust your gut.
Speak with a Central New Jersey Real Estate Lawyer
If you are buying a new home—or if you have a boundary or other dispute with a neighbor—you need an experienced real estate lawyer in your corner. Only a lawyer has your best interests at heart and can make sure that you are well protected during and after the transaction.
At the Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards, we have handled countless real estate transactions and understand the process inside and out. We can handle disputes between you and the other side and make sure that everything is lined up before you hand over the keys or sign your mortgage. To schedule a consultation, please call 732-253-4622 or send a message online.