Purchase and Sale of Residential and Commercial Real Estate
Buying or selling a piece of real estate is the single largest and most complex financial transaction that most people ever make. Unfortunately, people who rely on common sense and trust that all the other parties have carried out their responsibilities carefully, often end up with big problems and disappointments.
While legally authorized to conduct sales, real estate brokers are not responsible for making sure that titles and deeds are clear. Brokers representing sellers are bound to report only the problems with the property that are reported to them. Purchase and sales agreements lock both sellers and buyers into specific agreements not only regarding price and financing, but what may and may not be removed, and what each party promises to do as part of the transaction. Each side can be hurt if certain conditions are omitted from this contract, and either side can be sued by the other if the contract is not followed.
The only person who will represent only your interests in a real estate transaction is your own attorney. To prevent problems when buying or selling real estate, consult an attorney.
What to know if I’m buying? What to know if I’m selling? How can an attorney help?
The process of buying and selling a home consists of multiple steps that can take weeks, even months, to complete. This pamphlet can’t begin to cover all aspects of home buying or selling. Rather, it focuses on specific stages in the process when a lawyer’s advice would be helpful, even crucial, to get the best results for you.
By law, only an attorney can provide you legal advice – not a real estate agent, loan officer, or closing agent. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, you need your own legal advisor who will look out for your interests. Because the buyer’s and seller’s interests differ, it’s not a good idea for both parties to use the same attorney.
In time of chaotic real estate markets an attorney’s assistance is especially important. Buying a foreclosed property, selling when the purchase price does not cover the mortgage amount, and seller financing are examples of situations in which the parties need sound legal advice.
Related Legal Terms and Definitions
Abutter – the person or entity owning property with a shared boundary to the property in question
Encumbrance – a right, legal interest in, or legal liability attached to a piece of real property that does not prohibit transferring the title to the land to another party, but does retain a claim against its value, and obligate the owner to whatever that claim is. Encumbrances include easements, leases, licenses, mortgages, certain privileges, and judgment liens such as a mechanic’s lien.
Easement – a right or privilege extended by a property owner to another party for use of the property or specified part of the property. There are limitations to what uses can be guaranteed by an easement.
Lien – in general, a legal claim attached to the property owned by a party owed a debt or charge by the property owner
Mechanic’s Lien – a claim by a contractor to gain priority in the order of payment when property is sold, for money owed for excavation or construction work done building or repairing a structure
Right of Way – an easement that allows use of someone’s property as access to someone else’s property, such as a driveway
Quitclaim Deed – a deed that conveys the interests and rights of only the person who signs it, and does not protect against other claims
Warranty Deed – a deed that guarantees to the purchaser that the property has no encumbrances, and makes the deed holder who sells the property liable if it turns out that there are other claims to the title
Title Search – research done in the public records office, usually the Registry of Deeds, tracking the chain of title ownership of property to check for liens, mortgages, encumbrances, or conflicts which might put rights to the property in question