Recently, I asked my friend Glenn Frank to write a guest blog about legal topics regarding real estate. Since this is my first legal contributor, I thought it would be a good to start from the beginning…..”Why get a lawyer?”
DO I NEED A LAWYER?
How hard can this be? People buy and sell property every day. Right? What can go wrong?
The answer is: Everything can go wrong and if it does it can cost you a ton of money. To avoid the pitfalls and the potential for catastrophic loss, hire a lawyer. . . a good lawyer who has experience in the field.
Your lawyer’s job will be to answer the questions: Who? What? Why? When? and Where?
Who? So you have identified a house or condominium you want to buy and are about to sign an agreement to pay the largest sum you have ever spent on anything. How do you know the person selling is the person or entity that owns what you are buying? Ask your lawyer. Your lawyer can check the public records. Your lawyer can make sure the person signing has authority to sell. Your lawyer will certify to you that your seller is legitimate. This is not like going to a car dealer and picking a car off the lot? You should know who you’re buying from and that they have the right to sell it to you.
What? Your dream house is beautiful, spacious, and airy and exactly what you want to live in for the next ten years. But lo and behold there are things you can’t see or touch that will destroy your dreams. Unpaid mortgages, tax liens, attachments and other encumbrances aren’t posted on the door when you walk in. Your lawyer knows how to find them and make sure they are removed before you buy. Unless you are interested in paying off the Seller’s debts, hire a lawyer.
Why? Three days after you move in to your dream-house, a representative of the Iroquois Indians shows up and lets you know that pursuant to a treaty executed with the administration of Abraham Lincoln, your property is actually theirs. Casino, here we come. You call your lawyer. Oops, didn’t have one. Too bad, because you could have obtained title insurance when you bought your property (for a very small premium) and if you had the title insurer would be paying you the value of your home when the Casino construction begins. Your lawyer could have explained that to you.
When? You sign an agreement to buy the house you always wanted. Your current lease is up in 30 days. No problem, right. You’ll own the property by then and can move right in? Uh oh, the Seller’s lawyer put eight contingencies in the agreement to delay the closing until the Seller: a.) buys something else to live in; or b.) can resolve the longstanding dispute with his mother-in-law as to who owns the furniture; or c.) feels the time is right, whichever is later. Yikes!!! Where do you live in the interim while the Seller procrastinates? The answer? Good luck finding a cheap hotel. A lawyer would have been less expensive.
Where? Closing? What is a closing? If you had a lawyer they would have told you that you have to meet to sign the papers necessary to transfer ownership from the Seller to you, and that those papers need then to be filed at the Registry of Deeds to be effective. Unfortunately, you’re in the tanning salon when you are supposed to be executing documents at the Seller’s office. Don’t worry though, all that means is the Seller has the right to take your deposit of 20% of the purchase price and is under no further obligation to transfer the property to you. You didn’t need those thousands of dollars anyway right?
CALL A LAWYER? YOU DON’T NEED THE HEADACHES
Glenn is a Partner at Lawson & Weitzen, LLP and please feel free to contact him with any legal questions.
On an unsolicited non-legal side note…. Glenn wrote an fantastic book Abe Gilman’s Ending and I think you you definitely check that out as well!