What is the Role of a Real Estate Attorney?

“It takes a village”.
Purchasing or selling your home can be one of the most exciting and stressful experiences. When you purchase a home, usually you have three professionals on your “team”: a Realtor, an attorney, and a loan officer. When you sell your home, generally you have two professionals on your “team”; a Realtor and an attorney. The Realtors have the job of listing properties, showing properties, preparing and submitting offers, completing the early negotiations of the transaction, coordinating inspections, estimates, repairs, and appraisals.

If the Realtor drafts the initial offer, why would you need an attorney?

Every contract in New York State has an “attorney approval” period, during which time your attorney will review the contract in detail with you and present proposed modifications to the other party’s attorney. Because the contract is a “standard form” it is impossible for it to address all concerns for all transaction. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement on the additional terms of the contract your attorney is able to cancel the contract on your behalf and have your deposit funds returned to you.

After a contract is finalized during the attorney approval period, you attorney then carefully monitors the contingency dates in the contract, namely the inspection contingency and the mortgage commitment contingency. If your complete inspection and there are substantial defects (i.e. any one item that is likely to cost $1,500 or more to repair) you may be able to cancel the contract if you are not able to negotiate a resolution for repair through your attorney. If a resolution cannot be negotiated you would have the option to cancel the contract if you are not comfortable proceeding.

After inspections are completed, your attorney will then (1) monitor and extend the mortgage contingency date as necessary until all conditions of receiving mortgage commitment are met (including an adequate appraisal) and (2) order a title search for your property. During this time period of the contract, it sometimes appears that “nothing is happening”, but your lender and your attorney are working diligently to meet technical requirements.

I am often asked whether title insurance is “worth it”. If you are obtaining a mortgage you are required to obtain a lender’s policy of title insurance for your lender, but there is also an optional owner’s policy of title insurance. Because of the relatively low cost of obtaining an owner’s policy of title insurance, I always encourage clients to purchaser the optional owner’s policy of title insurance.

The last service that your attorney provides is attending closing with you. The closing date is the one date in the contract that is not fixed and closing may actually occur slightly before or after the contract date. At closing your attorney will have reviewed all documents prior to the closing, reviewed all prorations of taxes and other expenses, provided you with final numbers and instructions on how to have your checks prepared, and reviewing and explaining all of the documents that your lender requires that you sign at closing.

My approach to representing a client in a real estate transaction, whether it is a sale, purchase, residential or commercial, is to work closely with your Realtor and lender to ensure that all of your advocates are coordinated.

PO BOX 760
LATHAM, NY 12110

Telephone: 518-410-3694
Fax: 518-677-1020