Buying Your First House? Four Questions To Ask Your Real Estate Lawyer

If you're hoping to buy a house, one person who is integral to the process is your real estate lawyer. With or without a real estate agent, your lawyer is the one who handles most of the fine details of the sale, putting everything in line so that you are ready for closing day when it comes. If you're new to the house buying process, you might not realize how much your real estate lawyer can do for you.

Here are four questions to ask your real estate lawyer when you're buying your first home.

What should you include in the purchase agreement?

Sometimes, your real estate agent can draw up a purchase agreement for you, based on your feedback. But if you are buying without an agent or if you have special circumstances, you should always work with a lawyer to make sure the purchase agreement reflects the conditions of the home sale. 

For example, you might want it to be part of the deal that the seller of the home covers some of your closing costs. You might want them to pay for an inspection. You also might want to keep some unusual items, such as furniture or specific appliances as a part of the sale. There are some requests that you might not think of on your own, and your attorney can help you know what things you can legally ask for and what sellers should already provide with a house.

Do you have any special circumstances that affect the buying process?

Special circumstances in real estate require an experienced legal representative. If you hope for a rent-to-own agreement, you need very specific contracts to reflect your responsibilities in the sale. If you hope to live in the home as a short-term renter before closing, you should also have a lease agreement to protect yourself and the seller in case of insurance needs or property damage. Another circumstance that might require a lawyer is when you are buying a property with the intention of renting out a room or a suite. The property might require a different legal description or a different loan type if it could be considered a business. 

What will your closing costs be like?

Closing costs vary on a sale to sale basis. Your costs are reflected by how much you agreed to pay for a down payment with your lender. They are also affected by legal costs, taxes that might be wrapped up in the sale, fees for updating the land title and abstract, and the cost of property appraisals.

Your real estate agent can give you a ballpark range of what to expect, but your lawyer will be able to give you a more accurate estimate for what to expect for closing. Lawyers often work with title and abstract companies on your behalf, so they will know the cost of a basic update (or the cost of an update that takes much longer). Your lawyer can keep you updated on things that will affect your closing projection as the day gets closer. 

What are your tax responsibilities?

Finally, every state has different property and sale tax laws. You might need to be responsible for taxes at the point of sale, or the seller might have paid taxes for the upcoming year using an escrow account. If you are buying your first house, you can ask your lawyer how taxes are assessed in your state and what the trend is for property taxes in your area. 

For more information, contact a local real estate lawyer.

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