When most individuals think of real estate, they envision a realtor and perhaps a mortgage lender if they’re securing a loan to purchase a property. First-time buyers do not often learn about the involvement of a mortgage processor, title company or a closing attorney until they are preparing to sign a purchase agreement. The role of a lawyer in a real estate transaction such as buying a home is a key one, though. Closings are not the only time attorneys become involved in real estate transactions. As detailed below, there are many situations when an attorney’s participation may be required or warranted.
Drafting, Reviewing and Negotiating Real Estate Contracts
A purchase or sales agreement is a legally binding agreement. Massachusetts law calls for residential real estate contracts to include specific details, whereas commercial ones are less regulated. An attorney adds value when reviewing your buyer-seller agreement or lease. They can ensure that it complies with applicable state laws and protects your interests. A lawyer can also explain the implications of accepting certain contingencies in the agreement and how certain disclosures impact you.
They can also assist in negotiating the terms of the agreement or options for terminating it with you. And if you opt to refinance your home after taking ownership of it, then you can expect to sign another agreement with your lender when doing so. An attorney can advise you of the fees associated with doing this so you don’t fall victim to predatory lending practices.
Title Searches and Resolving Liens and Other Encumbrances
Various processes must occur leading up to a Massachusetts real estate closing. One of those is a title search. An attorney must pull public records associated with the property, including its deed, land records and, in some cases, divorce case or bankruptcy documents. They review this documentation looking for any record of liens or other encumbrances, such as easements, on the property. A real estate lawyer may need to help their client clear up any of these liens or encumbrances before the closing. A client may need to satisfy an outstanding debt with or show proof of payment to a contractor or subcontractor who placed the mechanic’s lien on the property to accomplish this.
There may have been an inaccurate recording of property tax payments or a mortgage loan payoff too. A real estate attorney may need to ensure that these payments are property recorded before a clear title is issued and a purchase or sale of the home can occur.
Advocating For You In the Short Sale or Loan Modification Process
Various circumstances may leave a homeowner in debt, unable to pay their mortgage. A lender may initiate foreclosure proceedings after a borrower has allowed payments to lapse for some time. Banks may consider a short sell, which involves a home being sold off at below the mortgage value, but they’re likely to want to see proof of hardship to agree to it. They might also tap into what little you do have to pay any amount you owe them in arrears. Many homeowners in this situation hire an attorney to mitigate the financial consequences of this choice.
Some homeowners may pursue a loan modification instead of a short sale if they believe they have the means to catch their mortgage payments back up. Not everyone qualifies for this loan restructuring. A real estate law firm can advocate for a borrower in situations like this.
Advising Landlords on Proper Handling of Tenant-Related Matters
Boston attorneys can assist landlords with different issues they may face, such as ensuring their renting of units complies with the Fair Housing Act. They may also guide landlords through the eviction process, including providing necessary notifications required by law.
Representing Lenders in Foreclosure Proceedings
There are instances in which homeowners cannot bring their mortgage payments current, and a loan modification or short sale are not viable options. This is when a foreclosure may become necessary. Attorneys can guide lenders through this process and field any requests to renegotiate the loan or allow for a short sale.
Where To Turn For Competent Real Estate Guidance
In many cases, the involvement of a real estate lawyer in your transaction is nothing more than an added level of security to ensure that your interests are protected. In other cases, such as with a closing, it is necessary to have a real estate attorney presiding over such matters. There are even other situations, such as estate matters, in which attorneys may simply be sought out for their guidance. Real estate is one of the more valuable assets someone might own. It is best to go that added mile, ensuring that you do your due diligence to minimize the chances of exposing yourself to unnecessary financial or legal liability.