The attorney's role in buying a home
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
For most people, buying a home is the most important financial investment they will make. Navigating the process without an attorney is like walking a tightrope without a net. If you’re currently looking at real estate, we strongly recommend hiring an attorney who can advise you throughout the transaction. To find a great attorney, check our resources page or ask friends and family who have recently purchased a home. Chose competent legal counsel, and you’ll be ready to walk the home-buying tightrope with us supporting you on one side, and your attorney on the other.
The decisions you make during the home-buying process have important legal consequences. It’s vital that you understand each document, and that your own legal interests are represented. We partner with your attorney to make your experience as smooth as possible, so that closing day is easy, and maybe even a little fun!
So what does your attorney actually do?
1. Reviews all binding, legal documents
When you find a home you love, we will write up an Offer to Purchase and submit it to the seller. If the seller accepts your offer, this document becomes the legal basis for the sale.
After the offer is accepted, and the inspection is complete, the attorney will draw up a legally binding document called the Purchase and Sale Agreement (P&S). The P&S sets forth more specific information and clarifies any aspects of the contract you’re making with the seller.
Your attorney will look at your Offer to Purchase, review condo docs if applicable, explain the contents of the P&S, and give you legal advice as needed. Remember, these are legally binding documents. Let someone who understands them help you.
2. Researches the deed and insures the title
First of all, what’s the difference between “deed” and “title?” In a nutshell, the deed is a physical document conveying ownership, while the title is more abstract, encompassing all the rights an owner has to a piece of property.
Title can get complex; your attorney will examine the public records to make sure the rights associated with the title meet your state’s legal requirements. The attorney will then certify the title (give a legal “thumbs-up’) to the lender and to you. You can, and in some cases, must, insure your title in case of hidden issues. The attorney will walk you through this topic and will advise you on the best course.
Your attorney will also work with the lender to understand their requirements for the mortgage agreement, and will explain them clearly to you. Your attorney will confirm that deed to the home is correct and in good legal standing. The deed is a document that shows ownership of the property—if it’s incorrect, the sale may fall through.
If your title isn’t clear or legal, you may not have certain rights regarding your property. Your attorney can resolve most issues immediately, and can help you insure yourself against unforeseen problems.
3. Oversees countless important details
Lenders sometimes require a plot plan (a schematic of the property drawn up by a certified engineer or surveyor). This proves that the home is actually located on the land indicated, and will clear up any zoning questions that may arise. Also, any liens on the property must be found and declared, as well as information regarding payment of taxes, water and sewer bills, and others, depending on your municipality.
Your attorney will take care of all these details, and will explain each requirement or advised action along the way. Any small issue that’s not dealt with right away can grow into a deal-breaking problem, so use your attorney to prevent catastrophe.
4. Finalizes the purchase
Closing day is when you take ownership of your new home. You’ll pay all closing costs, and if you took out a mortgage, you’ll finalize your loan. When you’re done signing all the paperwork, you’ll leave with the keys to your house.
Your attorney will accompany you to the closing, will explain all the paperwork, and will ask any clarifying questions or negotiate any last-minute issues for you.
So get on that tightrope and start walking! Liz and I, along with your attorney, will do our best to make your home-buying experience safe and easy.