There are some individuals for whom buying or selling a house, or any residential property is a “ho-hum” exercise. They’ve done it before and never needed a lawyer so why should they take on an added expense of legal advice? Forms have been standardized and are easily available and customizable to the specifics of the transaction as needed. This standardization can make an entire transaction seem to be standard and run of the mill as long as there are no exceptions or caveats.
Remember, your lawyer is at the closing to protect your interests and investment and make sure that all the documents are in order and have the necessary signatures. When you are at the closing table and documents are being circulated for signatures, you need someone to ensure that you have signed all the proper documentation. There are several situations that could require a legal opinion or input. These are situations that are not that uncommon.
– Are you participating in a short sale? Have all the necessary requirements been met? Is the seller’s mortgage company properly represented?
– Is this a transaction regarding rental property? Have all conditions regarding renters been handled?
– Is a buyer of rental property impacted by any outstanding lease agreements? If so, what are they?
– Is this a “For Sale By Owner” transaction? Again, have all the details been covered?
– Are there any liens on the property – now or in the past? Have they been handled properly?
– Is the title to the property a proper and correct title?
– Are there any issues regarding the property that were noticed at the buyer’s walk-through prior to closing?
– Is the property in the same condition as it was when the purchase offer was made?
– What is the proper course of action if a major issue such as hazardous materials, building defect or zoning irregularity regarding the property is discovered just before closing?
– What happens if the buyer has not brought adequate funds to the closing?
– If this is a transaction for a condominium, have all conditions been met?
These issues probably will not show up at most closings. In fact, at most closings, attorneys and real estate agents are there only to make sure the closing itself goes smoothly. If the title company, any escrow agents and real estate agents for the property involved have done their jobs and there are no surprises, there is usually no need for an attorney.
Yes, it is frustrating to add the cost of legal representation to the costs of buying or selling a property. If the closing goes smoothly without any problems or challenges, there was no need for an attorney to be present. When that happens, the peace of mind that comes from knowing your purchase or sale is complete and correct is well worth the investment in legal advice.