Do I Need an Attorney for Closing on a House Purchase?

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Closing is a vital date for purchasing a house. It is the time when all the major parts of the transaction occur. The title is moved from one party to another; the down payment and costs are paid by the buyer; and the lender provides the necessary funds from the mortgage. When the papers are signed, the key is given to the new homeowner and the transaction is considered completed. While attorneys do not always need to be part of this process, buyers may still benefit from a real estate attorney's advice.

Necessity

  • In many cases, an attorney is not needed for closing on a house. However, different states have different laws on the subject. In some states, an attorney may need to be present at least for the closing. In other states, an attorney does not need to take part in the closing process. This is closely connected to how the transaction must be recorded and what legal power the other parties have, according to decisions made by each state.

Lawyer Duties

  • When a lawyer must be present during a closing, it usually means that the attorney must prepare and facilitate the home purchase documents, one of the most law-based parts of the closing. The lawyer may be the only one who can perform a title search (through a title company) to see if there are any liens on the property. If the lawyer is involved to this degree, then usually only a lawyer can actually close the deal, completing the transaction for both parties.

Using an Agent

  • In many cases, buyers and sellers only need to use a real estate agent. This is allowed because many states grant real estate agents the necessary authority to work with the title and escrow company and help close the deal. In these circumstances, the agent prepares the necessary paperwork and helps the buyer and seller fill out all required sections. An authorized notary is often necessary, but escrow companies can typically provide this service as part of the closing process.

Using a Lawyer

  • Even if a lawyer is not required, buyers and sellers may still have reasons to consult one. This is common when the tax consequences of the purchase are confusing, and lawyers can provide much-needed advice. Sellers may also want advice on what rights they have in terms of their relationship to their broker. If one party disagrees with the purchase agreement contract after it is signed, an attorney is typically needed to examine the contract closely and offer a legal opinion or representation.

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