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What’s the role of an Attorney in Residential Real Estate Transactions?

tampa real estate attorneyFor many Floridians, the decision to buy or sell a home represents a milestone in their lives. Purchasing a home is one of the largest investments an individual will make; it should not be taken lightly. Therefore, a buyer, a seller, or both, should hire an attorney to represent their interests in the purchase or sale of a home. A lawyer’s principal purpose in a real estate transaction is to advocate for their client’s interests and to negotiate with the other relevant parties in an effort to facilitate the transaction in such a way that is fair, amenable, and mutually beneficial for both sides.

While we recommend seeking counsel prior to entering into a contract, a real estate attorney can be retained at any time during the transaction and their role can be as narrow, or as broad as the client wants it to be. The role can include the review and preparation of the client’s agreement with a real estate brokerage as well as a review of the purchase contract. Agency contracts and agreements have a significant impact on your financial rights and should not be taken lightly. Many times there are hidden clauses regarding additional transfer fees and splits of deposits contained in listing agreements. Therefore, these agreements should be negotiated and reviewed by a lawyer.

In addition to reviewing your agency agreement with your realtor, a real estate lawyer can also negotiate, review and amend your purchase contract. Review of the purchase contract is perhaps the most crucial function in this type of transaction, as the purchase contract contains all material terms and the document that the court will look to in the event of a dispute. As with any contract, these terms should be meticulously reviewed prior to signing. A lawyer can help you with this process and should be consulted prior to executing a purchase agreement.

However, a lawyer’s functions are not limited to document review. A licensed attorney can also provide guidance on issues of title. In representing sellers, an attorney that is a licensed title agent can issue title insurance for the transaction.  If representing a buyer, the attorney can review the abstract of title, commitment for title insurance and any other evidence of title to determine that the seller of the property has clean and valid title to the property being conveyed.  The use of an attorney can help protect a buyer from encumbrances of title and other liabilities, such as those stemming from hidden liens.

A real estate lawyer can also attend closings on behalf of the client. At closing, a lawyer can ensure that all of the necessary documents are properly executed and delivered. A lawyer can also ensure that all of the sale proceeds are released from escrow and properly disbursed once the contract is executed. If a complication arises, or the sale does not close, an attorney can advise the client as to the client’s proper rights and remedies.

In sum, a licensed Florida real estate attorney should be used as both your advocate, and your guide when progressing through a real estate transaction. Given the complexity of the sale and the significant amount of financial risk involved with these types of transactions, a lawyer should be the first real estate professional that you hire.  Call us today to assist you in the process.