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Frequently Asked Real Estate Questions
Do I Need an Attorney for Real Estate Purchases and Sales?
- In the Chicago area, and in the collar counties, particularly if the Buyer has a lender, an attorney can be critically important. For Sellers, you need an attorney to help negotiate any changes to the signed contract and agree on final repairs or credits, order title and perform title examination, obtain all necessary documents needed to closing including a survey, mortgage payoffs, association payoff forms, state, county and city transfer stamps, cure title irregularities, keep both Buyer and Seller on schedule to close, and protect the Seller's interests during the process.
For Buyers, an attorney can help client make key changes to the original contract to help protect the Buyer's interests, obtain fair and reasonable repairs or credits, explain the lending and loan underwriting process as far as managing expectations, pushing both lender and Sellers to stick to contract closing schedules, and protect the Buyer in the event any mishaps or problems arise in the process (like the Buyer loses a job, or the house suffers severe flooding before the closing).
When Should I first Contact an Attorney for a Real Estate Purchase or Sale? - After your contract has been signed by both the Buyer and the Seller, hopefully within 24 hours of Seller acceptance.
What happens if I want to get out of the contract after I made an offer, and get my earnest money back? - Working with a good attorney, most Buyers are able to get out of their contract, helping them to terminate a contract within the terms of the agreement. Problems arise when Buyers and Sellers are given insufficient information early, so they are unaware of their rights throughout the process.
Once my realtor makes an offer, and that offer is accepted, can I make any changes to the contract? - Yes, and there are many reasons to make additional changes to the contract. Every contract has boilerplate language that, after review, can be tweaked to benefit the Buyer, to better protect the Buyer's rights and give the Buyer more information about the property, and its background. Typically, the Seller is OK with most routine Buyer proposed changes to the contract, as long as they are reasonable, and the type of proposed changes that are routinely seen on similar contracts.
As a Buyer, particularly during a strong Seller market, I'm concerned that the Seller will walk away from the contract if I make any proposed changes, or ask for repairs or a credit of any kind. Is this true? - Every real estate transaction is different. This is where it's very important for your attorney to have good communication with your realtor. The realtors have dealt with the Buyer and Seller extensively during the showing and contract negotiation process, and have some idea of the frame of mind of their clients. In fact, it is the rare Seller that will insist that no changes be made to the contract, no credits be requested, nor repairs made. If presented to the Seller's attorney by your attorney using the right language on an attorney review and property inspection letter, most requests for contract changes, credits or repairs are addressed in an amicable and thoughtful way by both parties, without jeopardizing the contract.
After attorney review is over, as a Buyer, what happens if the Seller fails to follow through and sell the property to me? - Sometimes, there are reasons within the terms of the contract that the Seller cannot convey title and sell the property. A title search of the property might show a title defect that the Seller cannot fix prior to closing, even if the closing date is extended. Or the Seller may have a credit issue that did not show up before closing, like an unrecorded lien against the property, such as a federal or state tax obligation, that they cannot settle or pay prior to or through the closing. However, short of those types of issues, once the contract is out of attorney review, the Buyer has enforceable right in the contract. If the Seller tries to terminate the contract outside of the contract terms, the Buyer can take steps to keep the Buyer in the contract, which can be accomplished through a variety of legal means that can be employed by your attorney.
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