Buying a Home? Put Your Real Estate Lawyer on the Team

Your real estate agent and your mortgage professional are highly qualified to assist you in the purchase of your home.

They’re the linchpins of your home-buying team, and they should be all you need to make it to the closing table. Well, almost.

While these two professionals are experts in their individual areas, you will almost definitely also want to have a real estate attorney on your home-buying team. There are several reasons for this.

The most important reason involves title or ownership issues regarding the property you want to buy, such as an old or existing lien.

Your other two professionals will quite rightly be uncomfortable offering you advice on these issues, which can get very involved very quickly; title issues usually aren’t within the scope of their expertise.

The other area where a real estate attorney will be invaluable is in contract review. It’s always to your benefit to have a second set of eyes on this document.

If something was overlooked in the contract or phrased in a way that was different from your understanding of it, your real estate attorney will catch it.

If, for example, you were expecting the appliances to come with the property and the seller hoped to remove them, a contract that is unclear on this point may mean the appliances end up with the seller.

Your real estate attorney, not the seller or the seller’s attorney, will ensure it’s spelled out clearly at the beginning of the process.

HOAs Add a New Wrinkle for Condo Buyers

Purchasing a townhome or, even more so, a condo works just a little bit differently from purchasing a residence, which typically isn’t subject to some type of homeowner association (HOA).

When you purchase a townhome, you will own both the structure and the land underneath it.

With a condo, you will own the structure, but the land it sits on will be part of what is called the common parcel.

With townhomes, association fees tend to be lower, though it’s likely that fewer services will be provided.

Condo associations tend to be more hands-on, with responsibility for painting or refacing the outside and common areas of the building, landscaping, and other maintenance tasks.

Your monthly dues will reflect this.

Before deciding to purchase your dream townhome or condo, sit down with your real estate attorney and scrutinize the association bylaws to make sure you understand them. You also need to get a clear picture of the finances of the association.

Unlike with a single or detached family home, the HOA is a very important consideration when purchasing a townhome or condo association, and you need to make sure it’s financially sound.

The last thing you want to do is to purchase a property whose association is mismanaged or, worse yet, on the verge of financial collapse.

Your lender will go through all this information very carefully during the lending process, looking for situations that either exist now or could become issues in the future. But you need to understand it yourself, too.

There are many great townhome and condo developments out there. Lower-maintenance living is ideal for some, particularly downsizing retirees and those who don’t have time for, or don’t enjoy, home maintenance.

However, make sure you know what you are getting into before-not after-you purchase a home that comes with an HOA. Your real estate agent, mortgage professional, and real estate lawyer can help you get the information you need.