How an attorney can help you when you buy or sell a home

It can be well worth the cost to retain a lawyer to look out for your interests throughout the transaction.

For many Arizona families, the most important investment they will ever make is the purchase of the family residence. Often, the bulk of the family's savings will be invested into this asset and reinvested in subsequent homes. It makes a lot of sense for anyone purchasing or selling a house to engage an experienced real estate attorney to look out for the client's financial interests at every step of this complex transaction, including the closing.

In fact, having a lawyer on board from the beginning is wise. For example, the buyer or seller can address questions at any point in the negotiation to the attorney such as those related to zoning, hazardous conditions, easements, utilities or other issues.

Document review

Many people when buying or selling a home - even those who think they probably should be asking questions - just sign without reading legal documents during home sale negotiations, at closing and related to the home mortgage. It can be intimidating to see page after page of small, complicated print with unfamiliar terms. It may feel like an individual or couple has no power to negotiate the terms of such documents.

In such situations, involved real estate agents, escrow officers or mortgage lenders may be there to answer questions about the terms of a document and how they impact each party to the transaction, but it is in the best interest of the buyer or seller to have their own legal representative: a knowledgeable real estate lawyer.

Examples of documents an attorney can review on behalf of a client buying or selling a home include:

  • Brokerage agreements
  • Purchase agreements
  • Deeds of trust
  • Promissory notes
  • Mortgage contracts
  • Financing documents
  • Title reports
  • Title insurance policies
  • Deeds

In addition to reviewing documents, legal counsel can also review all documents for accuracy.

Title issues

Legal counsel can review deeds that transfer property ownership to be sure all interest in the home is properly transferred and that the property is titled in the most advantageous way for the new owners. Related to this, an attorney can review any title reports to be sure there are no clouds on the title or unresolved title questions before closing. Finally, the lawyer can advise a purchasing party about what terms of title insurance policies are in the client's interests.

Negotiation with other parties

One scenario in which it can be smart to have an attorney is when the buyer's home inspector finds a defective condition or expensive repair that should be corrected before purchase. The lawyer can help to negotiate a resolution to this problem on behalf of either party.

An attorney can stand up for a homebuyer or seller against powerful real estate companies, lenders and government agencies that might have interests in the transaction. The lawyer may be able to renegotiate terms of the transaction in the client's favor. After all, the other party normally wants the deal to go through and may be willing to compromise to make that happen.

Attorney James Whitehill of Whitehill Law Offices, P.C., in Tucson, Arizona, represents people buying or selling residential real estate in the Tucson area and across Southern Arizona. Mr. Whitehill looks out for client interests in routine home sales as well as in short sales and potential foreclosures.