You’re about to purchase a new home or sell your old one, and you wonder whether you need an attorney or can “get away” using only a title company (as your Realtor may tell you). For little to no extra cost and much peace of mind, using an attorney to handle your closing usually makes a lot more sense.
For most people, the home is the most expensive asset you own. If you were buying or selling a business for the same price, you wouldn’t think twice about hiring an attorney. In real estate transactions, it makes even more sense to bring in a lawyer because in many cases the title company’s fee may not be any lower.
What you get when you hire an attorney over a title company is someone who not only handles the paperwork for your closing, but who also looks out for your legal interests. A title problem pops up during the process? An attorney can quickly clear it up. Get into a dispute about what furniture the seller is supposed to leave behind? An attorney can interpret the contract to see what you’re entitled to, then help you enforce your rights. See charges on your closing disclosure form you wonder about? An attorney carefully evaluates all charges to make sure you are legally bound to pay them—important because people often try to slip in extra fees hoping you won’t notice.
If you are buying a house in Broward County or selling one in Palm Beach County (the customs differ), you are generally the one who chooses the title insurance provider/closing agent. If you select an attorney, you get legal representation for a price similar to a title company’s, which doesn’t come with that representation. Attorneys also tend to be more thorough; I have been involved in many deals where the title company doesn’t do a complete city lien search, for example, claiming that is outside the scope of their job. This means if the home has outstanding permits, you may not know it until after you close.
What’s more, I have saved clients hundreds or thousands of dollars because I contested charges they did not legally have to pay. So even if the other side chose the closing agent and they hired me additionally, the savings often more than paid my fee.
In the state of Florida, the convention is to present an offer in the form of a signed contract. Here again, involving an attorney makes smart business sense. For a client that plans to hire a lawyer as their closing agent, many attorneys will review the initial contract for no extra fee. To keep that contract from being binding before the lawyer sees it, be sure to write “subject to attorney’s review within three business days” into the contract you are presenting as your offer. Then get it to an attorney right away, so he or she can be sure you are well protected.
Contact the Law Office of Gary M. Landau for a free estimate the next time you find yourself buying or selling your home.