estate purchase agreement you sign is a legally binding contract
between you and the buyer. If you have any questions about the legality
of your contract, get a lawyer on your team immediately. No one
else on the team is qualified to give you legal advice.
factors determine whether you need a lawyer on your team:
- The location
of your property: Your agent will know the role that lawyers
play in your particular locale.
- The complexity
of your transaction: You need a lawyer if you get into a complex
financial or legal situation that can't be covered by the type
of standard contract mentioned earlier. For example, suppose that
you hold title as a tenant-in-common and are selling a partial
interest in the property, or that you want to structure the transaction
as an intricate installment sale.
- If consulting
an attorney will help you sleep at night: You may have the
world's easiest deal. Still, if you feel more comfortable having
a lawyer review the contract, your peace of mind is certainly
worth the cost of an hour or two of legal time.
- If no
agent is involved: For example, suppose that you're selling
your house by yourself. If neither you nor the buyer has an agent,
get a lawyer to prepare the contract, and have the lawyer do the
work that an agent would normally handle. Eliminating the real
estate agent doesn't eliminate the disclosures, inspections, contingency
removals, and other details involved in the house-selling process.
you decide that you need a lawyer, interview several before making
your selection. A corporate attorney or the lawyer who handled your
neighbor's divorce isn't the best choice for your real estate team.
Get a lawyer who specializes in residential real estate transactions.
Good agents and brokers are usually excellent referral sources because
they work with real estate lawyers all the time in their transactions.
A good lawyer
has the following characteristics:
- Is a full-time
lawyer: Licensed to practice law in your state.
- Is local
talent: Real estate law, like real estate brokerage, not only
varies from state to state, it also changes from area to area
within the same state. A good local lawyer knows local laws and
has working relationships with people who administer them in your
- Has a
realistic fee schedule: Lawyers' fees vary widely. A good
lawyer gives you an estimate of how much it will cost to handle
your situation. Seasoned lawyers generally charge more than novice
lawyers, but seasoned lawyers also may get more done in an hour
than inexperienced lawyers can. A low fee is no bargain if the
novice is learning on your nickel.
- Has a
good track record: If the lawyer you consult thinks that your
case may go to trial, find out whether that lawyer has courtroom
experience or intends to refer you to another lawyer. Always ask
about the lawyer's track record of wins versus losses.
- Is a deal
maker or a deal breaker (whichever is appropriate): Some lawyers
are great at putting deals together. Others specialize in blowing
them out of the water. Each skill is important. Depending on whether
you want the lawyer to get you out of a deal so you can accept
a better offer or need legal assistance to keep your deal together,
be sure that you have the right type of lawyer for your situation.
your language: A good lawyer explains your options clearly
and concisely without resorting to incomprehensible legalese.
Then he or she gives you a risk assessment of your options in
order to help you make a sound decision. For example, the lawyer
may say that one course of action will take longer but will give
you a 90 percent chance of success, whereas the faster option
only gives you a 50/50 chance of prevailing.
well with your lawyer
said that an ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure must have been thinking of lawyers. A two-hour preventative
consultation with your lawyer is infinitely less expensive than
a two-month trial.
are excellent strategists. Given adequate lead time, they can structure
nearly any deal to your advantage. Conversely, if you bring wonderful
lawyers into the game after the deal is done, all they can do is
damage control. The best defense is a good offense.
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