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Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Attorney [2011-05-09]

by Mark Nash

Article highlights:

  • Paying for an attorney
  • The attorney’s role in a home purchase

You’ve heard it before: Buying a home is the largest purchase you’ll make in your lifetime. The legal consequences from mistakes or omissions during the buying process can cause you some major headaches. You might have heard differing opinions about whether or not you need a residential real estate attorney. It’s a good idea to get one.

Costs for an attorney vary across the country, but figure up to $2,000. (If you pay $200,000 for a home, that’s only 1 percent of the cost.) Some attorneys charge a flat fee from contract to closing and others will charge an hourly rate. Request a retainer agreement that outlines the attorney’s charges and responsibilities. Ask your agent to recommend an
experienced, full-time attorney who is state-licensed and specializes in residential real estate law.

What an attorney does

An attorney who specializes in residential real estate will review your purchase contract, preferably before you sign it. This is especially recommended for first-time homebuyers. The attorney will also work with your mortgage loan officer, the home seller’s attorney and agents to make sure that dates are set for attorney approval, home inspection,
mortgage commitment and other contingencies.

Your attorney will also review important documents, including the deed, bills of sale (for personal property such as appliances) legal descriptions, mortgage loan documents, plat of survey, and title and title insurance policy. The
attorney should attend your closing.

In most states, attorneys can change legal language in a purchase contract, void a purchase contract under state laws and negotiate expenses on unpaid prorated expenses due to you from the seller, such as property taxes, condominium
assessments and utilities. Attorneys don’t typically counsel home buyers through the purchase negotiations, but you can ask yours for assistance. Most attorneys also get the deed, so they can review it before giving it to you. The reason for this is that sometimes there are misspelled names and other errors in the legal description.

Only an experienced professional, who is closely familiar with these documents can catch all the problems or mistakes and save you future expenses to correct them. Once you begin to go through the process and understand the steps and procedures, you will be glad that you have another seasoned pair of eyes looking out for your legal interests.