How a Great Lawyer Can Help You Sell Your Home or Property

Buying a home is one of the most stressful things many of us do during our lives.  The purchase involves large amounts of money, large amounts of time and, perhaps most important, large amounts of trust.  It often means having to answer personal, reflective questions, like "Is this home really in my price range?"  "Will I be able to afford monthly payments for the next 20 or 25 years?" "Is this really a good investment of my money?"

If you're feeling stressed out from just reading this first paragraph, you can imagine that choosing a great real estate attorney is going to be a very important part of your process -- and something that you can do fairly easily, once you know what you're looking for.  And that's the point of this article -- to help you find legal advice easily.

Jennifer Coston, an attorney who practices real estate law with Jainchill & Beckert in Plainville, Connecticut recently talked about what makes a good real estate lawyer, and what kinds of services a good lawyer can provide for you as you go through a real estate transaction - specifically, the purchase of a home.  She gave us a few of the questions she is frequently asked - probably questions that you, as a potential buyer, have. Attorney Coston has vast experience in handling legal documents and title search documents, working with mortgage brokers, overseeing the payment of closing costs and more.

The purchase and sale of real property -- land and any structures on it -- requires the knowledge of Real Estate law. Real estate law also covers legal issues related to anything attached to the property or structures, such as appliances and fixtures. Lawyers who specialize in real estate ensure that proper procedures are followed during the acquisition or sale of property. They also may be concerned with how a property is zoned for usage. Real estate law covers deeds, property taxes, estate planning, zoning, and titles. If you are buying a home or property in Connecticut, it’s important to involve an attorney. According to Attorney Coston, that's for your own good. "Representing a buyer is very complex," she explained. "If a real estate broker or agent is involved on behalf of the buyer, we work closely with that professional to be sure we are guiding our client appropriately through the legal issues of home buying." She continued, "But if there isn't someone else representing them, the process is much more complex. We provide a wide variety of services to help make the process smooth. If you don’t have a broker assisting you, we will handle scheduling - things like establishing dates for home inspections, mortgage contingency dates, closing dates. We also handle the disbursement of funds for both buyer and seller when we're representing the buyer - that alone is worth the value of a good real estate attorney." Attorney Coston highly recommends that buyers work with a realtor for a broad range of services. "Realtors can help a lot with follow up to be sure that important dates are being met. Sure, you have to pay them a commission, but a good agent or broker adds a lot to the real estate process, just as a good law firm does.” Of course, in a "for sale by owner" real estate transaction, it's even more important to have a knowledgeable real estate attorney providing legal advice. It has been a seller’s market over the last few months, and many sellers are looking to maximize their profit by selling their own property without using a real estate agent. "Today, because of interest rates, people are more drawn toward selling residential property themselves. We are seeing around 20% of these kinds of transactions. Again, without a realtor, the process is more complex for everyone in the transaction - seller, buyer, attorney. When it comes down to it, lawyers do more work in these self-driven transactions, so price is comparable whether you are a seller or a buyer. "

+ What should I look for when hiring a real estate lawyer?

Attorney Coston says that choosing the right real estate lawyer is one of the most important things you will do when buying a home. Rather than just diving into an attorney directory and picking out a name, it's worth doing some homework. In addition to someone who has handled lots of real estate transactions and has an overabundance of great reviews on social media sites (admit it -- that's where we all go first!), she recommends looking for someone who: 1) Has extensive knowledge of the local market; 2) Understands real estate law, including laws for different types of property, the rules that apply to different housing communities, and other requirements set forth by the state division of real estate; 3) Is experienced in dealing with real estate agents, lenders and other professionals ; 4) Knows how to deal effectively with all parties involved in the sale/purchase, including the title company, mortgage broker, and others who deal with title issues, complex contracts, and sometimes even civil litigation as it relates to personal property. As you consider the many good real estate attorneys out there, ask friends, co-workers and family members who are property owners if they've had a good experience. It's also valuable to check references when you can. Any reputable lawyer knows that buying a home means laying out a large sum of money, and they will understand you wanting to protect your investment from the second you consider making it.

+ What role will a real estate attorney play in the process of buying a home or other type of property?

What your attorney will contribute depends largely on whether or not a real estate agent or broker is involved. "We often get clients based on realtor referrals. Realtors are a great asset because they handle so many of the details that a buyer can't possibly know about -- things like how long it may take to schedule a home inspection, or what to expect with a title search," said Attorney Coston.
She continued: "Whether or not real estate brokers are involved, once we know that a house is under contract, we send over a client agreement that outlines what will be done and acknowledges that we will give that client honest and fair representation."
"When a realtor is handling the purchase or sale, the next thing that happens is that your attorney will ask for the contract from that realtor and then lay out a timeline. Things like home inspection, mortgage contingency, other important dates that must be met - these are set in the purchase contract. And many times, extensions are needed based on circumstances or situations. As an example, if you are buying during a busy time in the real estate market, or a busy season, key players like lenders and home inspectors may be harder to connect with. A good lawyer can help you keep the process on track." "If no realtor is involved, we, as attorneys for the buyer,draft the contract and set the important contingency dates.. e work with the client directly, advising on setting dates for activities and deadlines that will have to be met before the property can be legally transferred.” Coston continued, “I ask that the agent send the contract, and I review it. I keep track of important dates – mark down contingency dates, home inspection, mortgage contingency, dates that must be met. , Sometimes, extensions are needed, especially when lenders, appraisers and home inspectors are very busy Once the lender sends me the title request, I order the title search.” .

+ What is a title search? And what role does a real estate attorney play in the title search?

A title search is usually performed for all purchase transactions for the buyer. This is something a lender will want. It’s a detailed examination of public records to determine who owns any liens against the property. The purpose of this step is to make sure that nothing exists that would prevent the seller from conveying clear title to the purchaser. This includes checking tax rolls, deeds, mortgages, judgments, etc., to ensure that everything is recorded properly. CT real estate law does not require a title search prior to every real estate closing, but Attorney Coston says the title search is wise in most cases because it discloses the previous owners of record. It can also turn up other legal issues that must be resolved, including mortgages, judgment liens, and other encumbrances. Not sure if you need a title search? Be sure to engage a legal team with experience in navigating this important part of the buying process to walk with you through this important step.

+ What is involved in a home inspection? Should my lawyer help me negotiate things that are found in the home inspection?

A home inspection is a critical, if undervalued, part of the home buying process. Home inspectors generally provide detailed requirements about what should be repaired or budgeted for. All home inspectors approach their jobs differently - a good real estate attorney can often steer you toward someone with expertise in current building code requirements, current rules about safety measures and potential issues that may arise as the result of weak points in construction or damage that may not be able to be seen by the untrained eye. "The home inspection is typically done two to three weeks after the contract process is initiated," Attorney Coston said. "Once it is completed and the report is submitted, the seller may proactively agree to do repairs or offer credits for significant items. Or the seller may request another inspection to negate or clarify the first inspection. I sit down with my client and evaluate those offers, look at what must be done to meet contract law, and then advise on what should be done to help the buyers get a fair deal. Once those repairs and credits are submitted and negotiated, I prepare an inspection addendum that shows specifically what sellers are agreeing to fix or offer credit for so that repairs can be made after the closing. This is another area where real estate lawyers are worth their weight in gold. If an issue comes up – like a recent experience I had where an owner was saying that a backyard pool wasn’t required to be fenced in, I can get involved and cite specific rules from the Department of Consumer Protection or other government agencies. A realtor is also a good partner in the process of negotiating fixes following a home inspection, but if one isn't involved, a real estate law firm can guide a buyer through the talks."

+ How do I know what my fees will be at closing?

"Your attorney does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to handling the details of your closing," Attorney Coston explained. "The title search, which we discussed earlier, shows all of the outstanding mortgages, liens, back taxes and other encumbrances against your property. As your attorney, I look at that document and work with the mortgage company to prepare an initial closing disclosure, or CD. The CD will contain a good faith estimate of the costs you will incur as part of the closing. In addition to the CD, we contact the sellers’ attorney and they will order all the payoffs that need to be ordered to complete the sale from their end." So what do those fees usually amount to? "It depends. When buying or selling a property for cash the costs are generally low. However, if you are getting a mortgage, your lender will have fees and costs associated with the transaction that will be disclosed to you during the application and commitment process before you proceed to closing. . "One of the most important jobs that is done by a good attorney is to make . sure that there are no surprises. That may be the most important part of what we do for a homebuyer. According to Zillow.com, here is a list of the fees you may be required to pay on closing day:

One-time fees

  • Appraisal fee
  • Reinspection fee
  • Credit application, credit report and credit supplement fees
  • Mortgage origination fee
  • Lender’s title insurance policy (optional owner’s title insurance)
  • Escrow fee
  • Home inspection fee (optional)
  • Closing attorney fee
  • Courier fee
  • Bank processing fee
  • Recording fee
  • Notary fee
  • Loan discount points
  • Homeowners association transfer fees

Recurring fees

  • Homeowners insurance
  • Property taxes and tax servicing fees
  • Mortgage insurance premiums
  • Flood certification fee (in some areas) The list of fees can feel lengthy, and a good attorney with expertise in real property will help you verify that you've crossed all your t's and dotted all your i's so there are no surprises on closing day. If you are purchasing a home or property and need an attorney who can get you through the process easily and affordably, we invite you to get in touch with us at Jainchill & Beckert. You can learn more about us, hear from our clients, fill out our form and set up a free consultation with us. Or get in touch with us at (860) 383-6719. Jennifer Coston, and the rest of our legal team, have helped hundreds of home buyers to make their dreams come true, and we can't wait to help you purchase your dream home, too.