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Why a Real Estate Agent Isn't Enough

june 30, 2020 | home buying
Attorney explaining the home-buying process to a smiling couple

Buying a Home is a Complicated Process.

For most home buying is the biggest purchase of their lives (until their next house, at least) so getting every part right is crucial. It’s also a process that very few people are intimately familiar with, requiring the help of experts to ensure that the requisite paperwork is done and the necessary boxes are checked. 

The decision to invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially decades of your life in a home is not one to be made lightly, and not something that should be attempted alone. Real estate agents are more readily associated with the home-buying process and can act as your representative and your guide to options. They compile lists of homes that meet your criteria and schedule showings. They’re walking you through the journey from pre-approval, negotiating, answering questions, and offering advice along the way.

Hiring an Attorney During the Home Buying Process

But attorneys can play an instrumental role in helping you secure your dream house, particularly if the sale is potentially more complex than the traditional transaction, and a lawyer is often required (in some states) or recommended for the legal aspects of every home sale.

For most of the home buying process, your real estate agent is both your representative and your guide. They compile lists of homes that meet your criteria and schedule showings. They’re walking you through the journey from pre-approval, negotiating, answering questions, through to closing, and offering advice along the way. Even if it’s not mandated by your state, it’s also advisable for prospective buyers to work with an attorney, particularly on the purchase and mortgage documents.

Several States Require a Real Estate Attorney

Some home buyers aren’t given an option when it comes to real estate attorneys — many states and localities require a real estate lawyer for at least part of the transaction. If you’re working with a real estate agent, they will advise you on whether a lawyer is required in your area.

Purchase Agreements

Homebuyers might find themselves most in need of assistance from a lawyer in drafting, reviewing, and signing the purchase agreement. A purchase agreement isn’t something that a real estate agent can handle, as purchase agreements are legal documents and they aren’t permitted to practice law. Most agreements are standard, but uniformity doesn’t offer much comfort to those who aren’t familiar with either legalese or the extraordinary considerations they’re unaware of. We rely on experts for what we don’t know, and a real estate attorney can make sure that a purchasing agreement covers every relevant issue the buyers can think of, as well as any they haven’t.

The option to not have a lawyer shouldn’t be taken as a recommendation to forego one for the sake of expediency or expense. The home buying process can present complications beyond the standard cookie-cutter arrangements seen online or relayed by friends, and you don’t want to find yourself in over your head in trying to close on a dream home.

The Different Home Buying Scenario

In looking for the right home, you may find one that is being sold under financial duress scenarios, including a short sale or a foreclosure for non-payment of the property taxes, mortgage, or both. While these situations differ in how the decision to sell was arrived at and who is conducting the sale, all present added concerns and considerations for potential buyers.

Short Sales

In a short sale, the asking price for the house is less than what the mortgage value of the home is, with the difference either being paid off by the seller or forgiven by the lender. Generally, the owner is selling the house but the lender must approve this short sale. An attorney can help you assess every aspect of any type of sale to make sure that you’re protected and that all the paperwork is done correctly to avoid any financial liability.     

Investments

Some home purchases are made as an investment, with the aim of turning the property into a rental unit or buying a house that’s already being rented. In addition to working through the purchase process, there’s the added consideration of dealing with leases as well as tenancy, zoning,  and property management issues plus the implications of using a home as a commercial venture.

Sale by Owner

You might have your mind made up on a home for sale by the owner, and while the removal of seemingly extraneous real estate agents might seem like it would improve and streamline the process, it opens up the possibility for mistakes or oversight without sufficient expertise to avoid any pitfalls. Hopefully, you’ve retained the services of a real estate agent on your end, and with an attorney in tow, you can ensure that the purchase agreement and closing are buttoned up, and the title and taxes are in order for the completion of the sale. Whatever the decision of the selling party, you want to be sure that you’re handling everything correctly on the buyer’s end.

Condominium or Townhouse

Perhaps your ideal home isn’t a house at all, but a condominium or townhouse. Buying a condo often means buying into a community that is often governed by a co-op board or other body regulating the larger development. Whereas those purchasing a house usually have latitude in how they can choose to alter or remodel within local building ordinances, condos come with their own rules about what owners can and can’t change as well as guidelines about common areas, plus additional fees towards maintenance and upkeep. It may sound relatively straightforward, but reviewing those aspects of a condo purchase or, in some cases, the rules for your new house within a homeowners’ association (HOA), will provide a clear picture as to what you’re agreeing to buy.

Speak with a LegalShield Real Estate Attorney before Buying Your Home

Part of homeownership is trying to save money where you can and affect repairs yourself as possible, with the countervailing wisdom being to know when you need to spend the money to have something done right. When it comes to buying a house, it’s worth spending a little more to make sure you can feel comfortable with the process by having an attorney attend to the areas where they are required and those where you would feel more comfortable having legal expertise on your side.  LegalShield members can talk with an attorney about any legal issue that may arise in the home buying process. Memberships start at $24.95 a month.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at www.legalshield.com for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.

Connect with a LegalShield Attorney Today to Discuss Your Home Buying Process.