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Know when to consult a real estate attorney

It’s generally wise to seek the advice of a real estate attorney any time you buy or sell a property.  Common sale scenarios pose specialized legal risk, and you should consult an experienced attorney if any of the following apply to your sale:

  • Judgements or liens: If there’s a lien on your property, retain an attorney to evaluate the validity of the lien and how to remove it before it holds up a sale.
  • Heir to a property: If you’re an out-of-state heir, you should work with an attorney to ensure all ownership and title issues are in order. Talk about disclosure issues and how to best represent a property when you may have little knowledge of its past or potential concerns.
  • Joint ownership: The ownership structure of your property may impact your ability to sell, particularly if it’s a jointly inherited house. Ensure all joint tenants are on the same page and agree how to split the proceeds. A qualified attorney can help sort out deed issues and sale agreements to ensure your interests are protected and the house can legally be sold.
  • Unmarried domestic partners: Once you and your partner have agreed on expectations, contact a real estate attorney who can draft a home sale agreement that establishes how proceeds will be allocated and what responsibility each party will take for any debts or encumbrances.
  • Disclosure concerns: If you’re concerned about potential issues with the property (e.g., a death on the property or nuisance neighbors), consult an attorney about your disclosure obligations. Remember, you’re required to answer buyers’ questions truthfully, to the best of your ability.

Selling a home will probably be one of the largest transactions you participate in during your life. Even if you don’t anticipate any of the challenges above, an attorney can provide valuable professional guidance. He or she will review contracts, negotiate repairs, and coordinate with the title company, working to ensure the sale takes place in a fair way and protecting your rights and interests.

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