by David T. Kasper, Partner
Kasper and Payne Associates
The weather’s not the only thing getting warmer—the busy springtime real estate market is also heating up. If you’re in the market for a new home, it’s important to remember a few key steps you should take when it’s time to make that purchase.
Homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers, may be overwhelmed by the prospect of making such a major purchase. For the great majority of buyers, their home is their largest financial investment. Home buying is a complex process, with huge potential financial risks if not professionally handled. From hiring a real estate agent to help you find the right home and negotiate the terms of a contract, to working with an experienced attorney to represent you when you complete the purchase, it’s important to work with competent professionals retained to look after your best interests. Realtors and real estate attorneys assist you from start to finish, not only easing your mind, but, importantly, avoiding costly mistakes down the road.
As an attorney who regularly represents clients in both commercial and residential real estate transactions, I am often asked what exactly it is that I do for my clients in a residential real estate transaction.
The short answer is I work to make sure a buyer is purchasing what they think they’re purchasing under the terms they agreed upon with the seller.
Clients often think of the hour or so spent sitting in the lawyer’s office as the bulk of the attorney’s work related to the closing. However, reviewing the documents is really just a small portion of the closing from an attorney’s standpoint. Other duties include performing a title search and helping acquire title insurance, to accurately disbursing the closing funds to the appropriate parties.
An experienced real estate attorney will also be able to advise a buyer on the legal consequences of certain decisions that the buyer may make during the process, including the need to have a survey done, how the buyer should take title to the property, what effect certain provisions of the contract or other documents have on the buyer, and many other questions that arise throughout the course of a transaction.
The importance of a professional title search can’t be overstated. When I perform a title search, I’m making sure the seller actually has the ability to sell the property by making sure there are not any defects in the chain of title that would diminish the value of the buyer’s new property, or their ability to sell it in the future.
It’s typically not that the seller is trying to hoodwink the buyer—many sellers are totally unaware that there are defects in the chain of title, so even if you know the seller, it’s important to have an experienced real estate attorney check the title thoroughly. An experienced real estate attorney can help to find defects and frequently will be able to assist in curing the defect. Sometimes it may not be feasible to cure a title defect and an experienced real estate attorney may be able to work with a title insurance company to insure the property in spite of the defect.
As an approved attorney with several North Carolina-approved title insurance companies, I can work to secure insurance for both the lender and the purchaser. An owner’s policy is not usually required by your lender so it is important that you, as a buyer, ask your closing attorney to obtain an owner’s title insurance policy for you to make sure your interests are being protected.
The North Carolina General Assembly has determined that performing many of the required tasks as part of a residential real estate closing are only properly performed by a person licensed to practice law in this state. Be sure you seek out an experienced real estate attorney who can work with you and your real estate agent to help you close on the purchase of your next property.
Making the biggest investment of your life shouldn’t be left to amateurs or internet research. When you purchase your next property, be sure to rely on the expertise of professional real estate agents and real estate attorneys to make your buying experience a great one!