If you are buying or selling a home you have entered into a binding contract that gives you legal rights as well as legal obligations and responsibilities. Like every buyer and seller, you will have questions about those rights and responsibilities as you move through your transaction.
Where will you turn for answers? Google? Your realtor, home inspector, mortgage representative, or title insurance person? While all of these sources, especially your Realtor, are essential to the buying/selling experience, they simply cannot give you legal advice. They are not licensed to do so, and the experienced ones know better than to take on that risk/responsibility. Doing so would be considered the unauthorized practice of law and would confer liability that a non-lawyer would not want to accept.
The obligations inherent in real estate transactions are serious and a misstep can be costly. Here are some examples of the types of questions you may have at each stage of your transaction.
Contract review / Attorney Review:
- What are your rights if the home appraises for less than the sales price?
- Do you have to pay a realtor commission if the deal doesn't close?
- What do the financing, inspection, and prior sale contingencies mean?
- What repairs can the buyer request and what can the buyer do if the seller refuses?
- What inspections are customary and what inspections are the sellers responsible for?
- Who is going to review the title reports to confirm you are getting 'clear' title, free of liens, taxes and prior owner issues that can attach to the property? Is the title agency resolving title issues or just insuring over them, in other words, leaving the problems and noting them as 'exceptions' on your title insurance policy?
Property Survey Issues:
- Are there easements, encroachments, setback violations or other issues with the property that can impact your ownership, use and enjoyment of the home?
- Who will review the closing figures, the closing adjustments, taxes, escrows, etc., to make sure that your closing costs are correct and that you are not paying more than you are contractually obligated to pay.
What are your rights and how do you enforce those rights? What can you do if you are unable to successfully negotiate through an issue with the other party? Is the other party in breach of contract or are you potentially breaching the contract if the deal does not close? Only a licensed attorney can answer these questions.
An investment in qualified, experienced legal representation will protect you throughout your real estate transaction and can save you from making costly mistakes. While the other members of your real estate team have essential roles, they simply cannot give you legal advice or guide you through the scores of other legal issues that will arise during your transaction.
You will be taking legal advice during your sale or purchase. It is up to you to decide if that advice will come from someone who is qualified to give it, and who can be held responsible if it is wrong.
By James M. Miner, Esq.
Attorney at Law, State of New Jersey
For more information, feel free to contact me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org, (908) 232-9962