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Why many people hire an attorney when buying a home

Buying your first home can be a little strange. You sign some papers and then move all your stuff into an actual house.

It may seem abstract, but in a very real way what makes home ownership a reality are the local, state and federal laws that govern home buying and selling, financing, insuring and inspecting.

Hiring a real estate attorney to explain and troubleshoot the process can make the experience easier and less anxious and, most importantly, helps safeguard the biggest purchase most people ever make.

Great exercise for your signing hand

When you decide to buy a home, you’ll probably ask friends for a good agent or just call an agent associated with a home you see online. Typically, you and “your” real estate agent will start by signing a pile of dense documents, including disclosures and contracts.

The disclosures describe the relationships between the broker (usually the agent’s employer), you and the sellers of the property. These can seem a little startling, such as when you find the broker may represent the buyer and the seller at the same time.

The contracts commit you, for example, to working exclusively with the broker for a set time, to seeing the broker is paid, and more. The broker is then authorized to act as an intermediary between you and sellers.

When the complex part is done, things get more complex

When you find the right house and the seller agrees to your offer, you will both sign a purchase agreement. This formal contract may make you realize things have gotten very serious.

Purchase agreements list who is buying and selling which property, conditions that must be met to finalize the sale, what fixtures and appliances stay in the house and which will be removed, the deposit amount, who’ll pay the closing costs, and other conditions for getting the keys in your hand.

Hopefully, your bank (or other lender) will like your choice and commit to financing the purchase.

Now comes perhaps the strangest and most dangerous phase, the title search. It may uncover long-lost liens or covenants casting doubt on whether the property can be sold at all, under what conditions, with what insurance, or the like.

When all these steps are complete, the price is paid, and you move in. That’s when you start wondering if your neighbor is building a fence across your property line. And are those cracks in the basement walls new or were they always there?

A good relationship with a good real estate attorney can pay off at every step along the way.

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