Winstead Law

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An ongoing discussion of current issues in the law

I’m considering buying a house. Do I really need my own lawyer?

First of all, congratulations!  Owning your own home is an extremely gratifying experience.  It is also likely to be the single largest investment you ever make, and the legal pitfalls should something go wrong are numerous and potentially expensive.  The answer to this question then is that it really is worth the small cost to have your own lawyer.  A real estate lawyer can help you navigate the legal landscape and resolve or steer you clear of problems you might not know to look out for.

But I have a Real Estate Agent…

Having a real estate agent is a great idea.  It is their job to know the local market, and they can help you to get the best price on the house you love, prepare your Offer to Purchase, act as a liaison between you and the owners, and generally facilitate the transaction.  But your agent will not advise you on legal issues, and the one-size-fits-all approach of the standard real estate forms used by most agents in Massachusetts very often will not address your individual needs or your specific property.

But I’m paying for my Lender’s lawyer, I’ll just use them…

            Many people are surprised to learn that the lawyer who will do your real estate closing has one client – the Lender.  They are not your lawyer, even though you are paying for them to perform the closing, and therefore their loyalty must be to the Lender and not to you.  If troubles arise before closing, or at the closing table, the closing attorney must ensure that the Lender’s interests are served, even if it is at the expense of yours.

A real estate lawyer, knowing your individual situation, will custom tailor your agreement with the seller, ensuring that you are protected before and after the closing.  They can anticipate problems, and advise you what to expect.  You need to know what will happen if things go wrong, and to have someone protecting you if things do go wrong.  Will you be protected if you find out later that the seller failed to disclose a serious issue?  What happens if there is asbestos in the property?  If you are buying a condo, what are your rights and what are the restrictions placed on you by the association’s governing documents?  Can you live with them?  What are your rights if you decide not to go through with the purchase, or if you cannot get financing?  A qualified real estate attorney can not only answer these questions for you, but can help make sure your contract protects you so if the worst happens you can obtain the best outcome possible!

Martin Winstead