The Real Estate Attorney
Protecting your interests when buying or selling
YOUR HOME IS A VALUABLE ASSET
So is your attorney.
Although many people will be happy to inject their opinion, an attorney is the only one qualified to give you legal advice. And legal advice is just what you need when you're buying or selling a home. The truth is. a lot of things can po-tentially go wrong—before, during, and beyond your closing. Hiring an attorney can help head off issues before they become problems. By choosing to use an attorney, you do yourself the favor of ensuring a smoother transaction.
ANSWERING ALL YOUR QUESTIONS.
Even the ones you don't know about.
One of the greatest benefits of using an attorney is that he or she has a legal and ethical obligation to work in your best interest. That means answering a lot of nitty-gritty questions, including some very important ones that you may or may not know to ask.
BUYING A HOME?
Here are sorne important questions an attorney can answer for you.
• Why do I need title insurance?
• What are my income, estate, and gift tax consequences?
• What do I need to know about the property's taxes, zoning, or special assessments?
• How will I handle probate issues?
• Is the property's recorded legal description accurate?
• How can I simplify a future sale?
• Are there any legalities preventing me from using the property as I wish?
• Will the title to the property be marketable if I decide to refinance later?
• What is the seller's liability after the sale?
• What kind of property taxes can I expect?
• Where do I file for homestead tax exemption?
SELLING A HOME?
Here are some important questions an attorney can answer for you:
• What are my income, estate, and gift tax consequences?
• What is the status of my title? Is it free of defects?
• What is "seller disclosure?"
• What sort of things do I have to disclose to a buyer?
• Am I at risk for a lawsuit if I don't disclose my home's defects to a buyer?
• How can I respond to a buyer's contract contingencies?
• What if the buyer's offer is contingent upon the sale of his own home?
• If the buyer takes over my mortgage payments, what is my liability should the buyer default on the loan?
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY?
Whether you're buying or selling a home. the earlier in the process an attorney is involved the better. Since the purchase contract is a blueprint for closing on your home. it dictates in black and white how the rest of the transaction will unfold. Never sign a contract without your attorney reviewing it. At the very least, you should write in a contingency clause saying the contract is valid only with my attorney's approval.
Someone may tell you the contract is standard and customary. But since no two homes are alike and no two buyers and sellers are alike, there's really no such thing as -standard and customary.
WHAT YOU GET AND GET TO AVOID WHEN USING AN ATTORNEY.
Your attorney can also handle numerous services for you in a timely, professional manner:
- Review the contract, and explain to you all the provisions and contingencies.
- In proper legal language, add any contingencies needed to protect your interests
- Inform you of your legal rights and obligations.
- Obtain a title search, evaluate the status of the title, and require appropriate legal remedies to clear any defects.
- Check for unrecorded municipal liens.
- Advise you on what the title policy does not protect against, so you understand any issues with the marketability of the title.
- Prepare or review the closing statement and other closing documents.
- Interpret and counsel you about all legal documents related to the title and transaction, including deeds, mortgages, and closing statements.
- Advise you on how you should take title to the home if you're buying, and how this affects your estate.
- Prepare a bill of sale to cover personal property such as curtains and appliances that you and the other party agree shall remain in the home.
- Inform you about the income, estate, and gift tax consequences to your estate.
- Review the property survey and discuss with you any potential problems.
Without an attorney by your side, you might face issues such as:
- Unnecessary taxes or expenses because purchase contract terms weren't negotiated in your favor.
- A contract that isn't enforceable, complete, or consistent with your original intent.
- Breach of contract caused by a lack of full understanding of the terms and its contingencies.
- Lawsuits that can result from not understanding responsibilities for the seller disclosure.
- Finding out someone else has, or is claiming to have, rights to your property.
- Problems with the title that make it difficult for you to sell the property in the future.
PEACE OF MIND COMES AT NO EXTRA CHARGE.
You have the choice of hiring either a non-lawyer title agency or real es-tate attorney to handle your title insurance. The cost of closing through a real estate attorney is about the same as the cost of using a title agent. Expect to pay a one-tirne fee ranging from a few hundred to more than a thousand dollars, depending on the sale price of the horne. While the fees are comparable, the value is quite different. A real estate attorney is trained in the complexities of real estate law, can examine your title and issue your title insurance policy as well as:
• Negotiate contracts on your behalf
• Give you legal advice
• Explain the meaning of the documents you will be asked to sign at closing
• Resolve title issues
A title agency that isn't affiliated with a real estate attorney cannot do any of these things.
Whether or not separate real estate attorney fees will be charged de-pends on the way the transaction is structured. Typically, if your attorney acts as the closing agent and provides your title insurance, there will be no other fees involved. If you hire an attorney to review the title commit-ment and other documents prepared by someone else, a moderate and reasonable fee will be charged, with the actual cost varying across the state of Florida.
Ask several real estate attorneys for a free estimate of the charges you might incur. Make sure the attorney you choose is one who can clearly and patiently explain the confusing aspects of the real estate buying and selling process.
Given all that's involved during the real estate process-your home, your money, your peace of mind-hiring an attorney is one of the wisest things you can do to protect your investment.
MARKETABLE TITLE, TITLE INSURANCE AND YOUR ATTORNEY.
In real estate, "title" refers to the rights of ownership and possession of a particular property. Before title can be sold to someone else, it most be "marketable" - free and clear of liens or other title defects that would be unacceptable to a prudent, educated buyer in the reasonable course of business. To ensure marketable title, your real estate attorney can conduct a title search - an examination of public records concerning the property you intend to buy. A thorough title search should uncover any identifiable problems (defects) with the tile.
Not all title defects are pan of public record. Such "hidden" defects may not be found in the course a title search, no matter how thorough the examination. This is where title insurance comes in. Title insurance protects you against problems with the title that you didn't know about when you bought the home. If a problem is discovered, your title insurer pays the costs to defend your ownership in court, to fix the problem, or covers your financial loss if the defects cannot be fixed.
To learn more about buying or selling your home with peace of mind to your real estate attorney.
The Days Of The Easy Real Estate Deal Are Over
Market conditions and new RESPA rules have made transactto increasingly difficult.
You work hard to find the right property for your buyer and negotiate favorable terms. Why risk a contract or closing misstep that could kill the deal?
Smart real estate agents don't take that chance. They team up with real estate attorneys to help ensure successful transactions.
Someone To Sweat The Big Stuff, And The Small Stuff, Too
The sooner a real estate attorney is engaged, the better - for your clients and for you.
When purchase negotiations start, a real estate attorney can provide advice on legal issues that arise and make sure the contract provisions are legally valid and align with your clients' needs and intentions. Addenda and contingencies are readily addressed with an attorney at your side who understands their intricacies and ramifications.
After the contract is executed, the real estate attorney can explain title examination results, prepare title insurance and closing documents, and make the closing statement clear and understandable for everyone. In fact, throughout the process, an attorney can answer all of the usual, or not so usual, legal questions that arise. That takes a lot of the burden off of you.
Your entire transaction goes faster and smoother with an attorney to clear the obstacles.
In Your Clients' Interest and in Yours
Your clients will feel more confident with a real estate attorney involved, and so will you.
Your clients come first. You want to make sure their interests are protected and that they feel secure throughout the transaction. Having an attorney working with them provides both. And that will provide dividends for you.
The smoother the transaction and closing, the more likely clients will be to come back to you next time they buy or sell a property. And the more likely they'll be to recommend you to others.
Another benefit for you: A real estate attorney's participation at each step along the way helps protect the real estate agent against potential liability should problems arise in the future.
Savvy real estate agents understand the benefits. That's why they see real estate attorneys as their essential partners, from contract to closing.
The Best Protection for Your Clients
Title insurance protects against financial loss if any of the purchased property rights, as insured, are ever challenged. But the buyer must have an owner's title insurance policy, in addition to the mortgagee policy the lender will require. And the owner's policy will give protection only within the limits of the policy's coverage. That's why it's always best to have a real estate attorney prepare the owner's title policy.
As a professional trained in the complexities of real estate law, a real estate attorney can offer your clients the security they need before closing on a piece of property.
A Good Financial Deal For Your Clients
When a real estate attorney functions as title agent and closing agent, providing title insurance as well as settlement set-vices, the cost is typically no more than a non-lawyer title company. A real estate attorney provides all the services you expect from a title company, plus the added value of the legal expertise to handle any issues that may arise.
Partnering With a Real Estate Attorney Makes Sense from Start to Finish
Add up the benefits:
+ Better protection for your clients throughout the transaction
+ Faster, smoother transactions
+ Less burden and worry for you
+ More satisfied clients, eager to such with you again
+ And at a cost no greater than that of a non-lawyer title company.