Do I Need a Lawyer to Buy or Sell a Home?

For most people, buying or selling a home is the most expensive transaction that they will ever conduct. You can often handle the tasks involved in buying or selling real estate just with the help of other professionals traditionally involved in the process: a good real estate agent, the escrow company, and possibly a mortgage broker. Many states have standard contracts for the sale of real estate. Many real estate transactions are conducted with the help of a lawyer. However, please make sure that you actually read everything you sign. Ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand.

If the buyer or seller tries to back out of the deal or if something goes wrong after the deal has closed (e.g. undisclosed structural issues), you can always hire a lawyer after the fact.

Some factors to consider in whether or not to hire a lawyer:

  • The lawyer’s fees are tiny compared with the purchase price.
  • Your state requires an attorney for closing or some other aspect of the sale.
  • You don’t entirely trust the other party and/or the real estate agents involves.
  • You are jointly buying or selling the house with a co-owner that is not a family member.
  • The property you are buying is in probate or foreclosure.
  • The property is in a development with homeowner association rules.
  • There are other complicating factors such as the seller helping the buyer obtain a mortgage.

Real estate agents and representatives of the escrow company can’t make judgments on legal questions. For example, if your prospective new home has an illegal in-law unit with an existing tenant whom you want to evict, or if either party adds unusual language into the purchase contract or mortgage, you may want to have an attorney look the documents over.

Your agreement of purchase and sale is a legal contract that defines:

  1. What you are selling.
  2. The sale price, the deposit and who holds the deposit.
  3. When the sale will close.
  4. The conditions (e.g. financing, home inspection) to be satisfied before the contract becomes binding.
  5. Any special arrangements between you and the purchaser.

The sale will include everything that forms part of the real property, including any equipment or other items that are affixed to the buildings, unless you make exceptions for them. Light fixtures, stained glass windows, built in bookcases etc. are all included. Any fixtures you wish to remove must be specified in the agreement.

The taxes will be adjusted on closing so that you pay a proportion based on the number of days of the calendar year you have owned the property and the purchaser pays the balance.

 

Source: 1-2-Law: https://www.12law.com

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