Expect the Unexpected: Why to Hire an Attorney for a Real Estate Closing



While New Jersey does not require that a buyer or homeowner retain the services of a real estate attorney, having the help of an expert will not only safeguard your rights, it will make the process smoother, especially when faced with unexpected issues that may arise.


Attorney review is perhaps the most crucial part of the buying and selling process, as it can make or break your home buying or selling process. Once an offer is accepted, and the home is “under contract,” the typical three-day Attorney Review period can be extended until all parties come to an agreement on the terms of the contract. After a thorough consultation, your real estate attorney will take a magnifying glass to the broker-prepared contract of sale (which is used in all residential real estate transactions) to identify and mitigate potential issues that are unique to you and the home.


As an example of a potential issue, there may be an abandoned oil tank on the property, depending on the location and age of the home (i.e., before 1980). If so, is the tank above-ground, or underground? If it is underground, was there a soil test done to see if there were any oil spills around the tank? If the seller is aware of spills or leaks, did the seller obtain a No Further Action (NFA) letter from the NJDEP confirming that there was no soil contamination? These are just a few of the many questions that a buyer should ask during the Attorney Review period so that there are no surprises during the home inspection.


What about from the seller’s perspective? While New Jersey homeowners are not obligated by law to remove an abandoned oil tank before selling their home, and may choose to decommission the tank (fill with sand), most mortgage companies will not move forward with lending to the buyer unless and until the tank is removed. But—who pays for the removal? The cost for removal and any ancillary expenses (such as soil tests, landscaping, or masonry work to return the area to its original state) can be divided; however, it is important to have a skilled negotiator on your side to help reach a fair and balanced agreement.


One all potential issues are identified, your real estate attorney will not only prepare any changes or additions to the Contract of Sale during the Attorney Review period, but will also offer invaluable advice at every stage of the transaction from offer to closing including, but not limited to, negotiating repair requests during the home inspection period; reviewing financing documents; and assisting with title clearance.


Are you thinking of buying or selling a home? Having the help of an experienced real estate attorney early in the process will not only give you a better understanding of the process before diving in, but may also help prevent some unexpected issues from arising before an offer is made or accepted.


Contact Natalie N. Fisher, Esq. of Plosia Cohen for a free consultation today.

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