In my last post I talked about the importance of having an attorney on your team when buying or selling a home in NJ. https://jamesminer.com/uncategorized/why-you-should-have-an-attorney-when-buying-or-selling-a-home. Legal rights, obligations and questions require legal advice from an attorney. This is important during the contract review, home inspection negotiations, title search and survey review, as well as preparing for the closing.
Hiring an attorney, however, does not have to mean huge legal fees. Here are a few pointers on how to have necessary legal protection while keeping your legal costs down:
- Flat fee vs. hourly fees. Real estate transactions can take many hours of lawyer and paralegal time and there is no way of knowing, at the beginning, how many hours will be required. Even the simplest transactions can take a great deal of time if there are unexpected title issues to be resolved or inspection repairs to be negotiated.
While most NJ real estate attorneys charge a flat fee, you could be surprised with hourly fees if you don't ask. If the home is part of a divorce or part of an Estate, and you have the Matrimonial or Estate attorney handle the sale, you may be charged that attorney's standard hourly rate, which could add up to far more than a customary flat fee.
- Expenses and add-on charges. When the attorney quotes you a fee, ask if the fee is all-inclusive or if there are potential add-ons for phone calls, emails, paralegal time, document review, document preparation or expenses. If expenses are charged, are they actual pass-through costs, or are they inflated.
- Unbundled legal services. Hiring an attorney for a real estate purchase generally means hiring that attorney to be involved in every step, from contract review through hosting the closing. You could save money by hiring an attorney that is willing to 'unbundle' the services, and handle only the specific tasks that require legal expertise and guidance, without charging you for services that you don't really need.
So when don't you need an attorney? Surprisingly, one stage of the home purchase that does not require an attorney is the closing itself. Simply put, all legal reviews and functions should take place before anyone sits at the closing table. Title and survey questions answered, inspection repairs and credits memorialized, and final closing documents reviewed and approved in advance. As title 'settlement agents' now commonly run the closing, and are paid by the buyer, the buyer's attorney need only be available by telephone to handle any questions or walk-through issues. There is no need for the attorney to sit at the closing table while the buyers sign their mortgage papers.
I offer a substantial discount off my legal fee if the buyers are comfortable closing without me at the table. This is a win/win as it saves the buyers unnecessary costs and it frees my time. This allows me to provide better service to all of my clients as I am not tied up for hours at a time in closings.
I hope you find these tips helpful and can use them to save on your closing costs. I would be happy to speak with you to discuss your purchase and my fees for legal representation, as well as ways to save you money by unbundling the legal services. Meantime, watch for my next post, which will go into more detail about the advantages and savings from unbundled services.
By James M. Miner, Esq.
Attorney at Law
Admitted in New Jersey & New York
For more information, feel free to contact me at:
email@example.com, (908) 232-9962