A lawyer’s checklist for buying real estate


Special to the Recorder

If you are buying real estate a simple overall checklist is:

1. Strike your best bargain and use a decent contract that puts in writing the “meeting of the minds” you have reached with the seller. It’s best to use a contract that is recognizable and typical for your area. It should, at a minimum, contain a right to cancel (also called a “contingency”) for the following listed items if applicable.

2. If you are getting financing, submit your application as soon as the contract is signed and be sure if you haven’t received written loan approval within your financing contingency period to either cancel or execute a written addendum giving you more time.

3. Inspect the property during the inspection contingency period to make sure the condition of the property is what was represented and if not, either cancel or sign a written extension giving you more time BEFORE your contingency period expires.

4. Obtain a title search and survey, both from reputable providers, within your cancellation period. If either show any concerns, cancel or sign a written extension giving you more time before your contingency period for title and survey expires.

5. Review your settlement or closing statement (now often called a “closing disclosure”), deed, and other closing paperwork before signing to make sure there are no mistakes and that you are in fact getting what you bargained for in the contract.

Not comfortable with navigating all this yourself? Attorneys typically charge approximately $250 to draft or review a typical residential contract, and around $450 to conduct a complete closing review of the above process. So, when the average person buys real estate about once every five years, is it really worth the time and effort to bring yourself up to speed and risk missing something as opposed to spending $450 to have someone who does it almost every day to help you?

Personally, I’ve handled more than 10,000 closings ranging in size from $0 to $120 million over the last 20 years, and I still come across a curveball every now and then!

Working with Realtors

You may be thinking, “If I am working with a Realtor™ isn’t all this included?”

Your Realtor’s job is to find you a great deal on the property you are looking for and help guide you through the purchase process. They can also prepare a form contract typically used in our area. They will be the first to tell you, however, that they can’t review the contract, title commitment, survey, deed, and other legal paperwork and advise you on them or give you any legal advice. Some Realtors have had special additional training or may even have law degrees themselves and thus can add expanded capabilities, but such is not typical.

I am friends with and represent dozens of local Realtors and can tell you that they greatly appreciate the addition of a good real estate attorney to the purchase process. If the property is listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), then usually if you employ a Realtor to help you it won’t cost you anything, since the listing agent will split their commission with your Realtor. So having a Realtor’s assistance is usually a great bargain for you. If you can afford the little bit extra for a real estate attorney, then you really will have all your bases covered! Good luck!

Blake Deal is managing partner of Briley & Deal, LLC. For more information visit us at www.jaxrelaw.com.