For most people, buying real estate is the biggest purchase they will ever make. Before committing yourself to a contract that will affect your life and your wallet for years to come, hire a real estate lawyer. Why – when so much is at stake – would you purchase a property without knowing whether your rights to use the property are in any way limited? Why would you rely on a generic contract that was not written for your specific set of circumstances? And why would you sign it without understanding what everything in it means?
A lawyer will request that all of the documents in the public records relating to the property be provided for her review so that she can fully inform you of matters that will affect your use of the property, such as easements and restrictive covenants, and will be sure that you understand any limitations or restrictions prior to purchase. A lawyer can also develop ways to resolve title issues, such as unpaid liens affecting the property, to keep the deal from falling apart or closing from being significantly delayed. A lawyer can review the survey and discuss any items of concern with you. Realtors and closing agents cannot do these things since they cannot lawfully give legal advice. Wouldn’t you like to know while you could still back out of the purchase that you wouldn’t be able to build that pool you promised your kids because there is a conservation easement that prohibits making improvements in that area of the property? What about learning prior to purchase that the condo you are about to purchase is on the side of the coastal construction line where construction was actually prohibited? Do you want to take the risk of having to evict tenants who decide not to leave after you buy the property? If these are things you would like to know about and be protected from prior to making one of the biggest investments of your life then hire a real estate attorney when you are thinking of purchasing.
And hire that attorney before you sign the contract for purchase. Lawyers are experts in negotiations and contracts. A lawyer can – and should – negotiate changes to the standard real estate contract in order to protect your specific interests far better than a generic form contract would protect them. For example, there are many things that can affect the property in a way that would make it undesirable to you personally but that do not make it unmarketable under a standard real estate contract, such as the conservation easement discussed above. Therefore, you as a purchaser would likely still have to go through with the purchase after discovering those undesirable items under a standard real estate contract. However, a lawyer will know to adjust the standard contract so that all information necessary for a fully informed purchase will be received while you are still able to walk away from the transaction without repercussions. A lawyer can also negotiate to have some or all of your lawyer’s fees paid by the seller when you get the lawyer involved prior to signing the real estate contract.
Kimberly Hosley Agee, The Orlando Law Group, P.L.