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Why You Need a Real Estate Attorney
By John Voket
I recently ran across a great post by Jeff Zane - a practicing real estate attorney in West Palm Beach, Fla., and a member of the Palm Beach County Attorneys’ Real Estate Council.
The item served as a good refresher for anyone who thinks they can save money during a real estate transaction by foregoing the involvement of legal counsel.
According to Zane, a buyer or seller should actually engage legal counsel early-on. He says the earlier in the process you involve an attorney, the more value you gain by their representation and support your interests.
Zane says a real estate attorney protect clients from potential problems that can range from the merely annoying to very costly by reviewing all written communications and contracts. Your real estate attorney reviews everything that requires your signature, including binding agreements and sales contracts.
Zane says an attorney's primary concern is that these contracts contain provisions and contingencies that benefit and protect you, and negotiating any changes to that end. An attorney can eliminate vague or unenforceable terms, and draft documents that require funds to be put aside in case the parties don't live up to their agreements.
Once you have found a home and agreed upon a selling price, Zane says a thorough search of the property’s title must be completed to ensure there are no liens or other outstanding judgments against the property, such as back taxes, lost or forged deeds, claims of undisclosed heirs or simple clerical errors.
A good real estate attorney will evaluate the status of one's title and pursue appropriate legal remedies to clear any title defects; advise you on what your title insurance policy does and does not protect against; and emphasizing marketability of the title when you sell.
If the title company does not uncover an existing lien, the insurance is there to cover it. Your attorney should also interpret and counsel you about all legal documents related to the title and transaction, including deeds, mortgages and closing statements.
In our next segment, we'll continue reviewing why a real estate attorney is a good investment.