You may have heard people say you don't really need an attorney when buying or selling a home. I guess you really don't need a dentist if you have a toothache, or a plumber if your pipes are leaking. Nevertheless, it's probably a very good idea to have one. While no one can force you to retain an attorney for anything, an experienced real estate lawyer will surely help you avoid potential mistakes, pitfalls and complications, and can provide peace of mind for a relatively small investment, compared to the importance of a smooth purchase or sale of your home.
Getting legal help for one of the most important contracts you will ever sign
For most people, the purchase of a home is the largest single financial transaction they will ever make. It represents decades of your hard work and effort. Hence, signing your name on the dotted line without understanding all of the provisions and implications in your transaction can carry a great deal of risk.
Fortunately, in New Jersey home buyers and sellers have a three-day review period after signing the contract of sale before it becomes legally binding. During this review period, your lawyer will carefully review the contract and make the necessary modifications and additions to further protect your interests.
Other attorney services when buying a home
In addition to reviewing the contract of sale, your attorney can review all documents related to the transaction, including:
- The mortgage loan documents
- The title, municipal and judgment searches
- The deed and other recorded documents to the property
- The land survey
A review of the above documents help ensure, among other things, that a buyer is obtaining clear title to the property. For example, title searches help determine that the property you are buying is free of encumbrances. An encumbrance is a legal claim against the property, which can be a lien for money borrowed, work done by a contractor, a judgment obtained by a creditor, or even a child support obligation of a prior owner. Moreover, if taxes are owed to the IRS or state by a property owner, the authorities could have a recorded tax lien against the property. All of these encumbrances must be resolved if a buyer is to acquire "clear" or "marketable" title to the property.
A land survey, on the other hand, will also reveal the existence of any easements or boundary encroachments regarding the property, such as a reserved right of way or a neighbor's fence extending over into the property.
A land survey will also reveal if there are any easements or boundary disputes regarding the property. An easement is a portion of the property designated for a specific use by a third party, such as a path through your property that a neighbor can use whenever he or she wants.
Buying or selling a home is a complex legal transaction. An attorney simplifies and demystifies the process. Having an attorney on your side protects your financial investment and interests. Simply put, having an attorney on your side during the purchase or sale of a home is a very wise choice.