In all likelihood, buying real estate will be one of the most expensive purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. Whether it’s piece of vacant land, a rural property, a single-family home, a condo, or a commercial building, the investment could be fraught with risk.
Below are the top reasons to consult a real estate attorney before you buy a property, to make sure that there are no surprises or issues after you close on the deal.
Top 10 Reasons To Consult A Real Estate Attorney
1. Title exception issues
2. Easements on the property
3. Concerns about seller disclosures
4. Boundary line disputes
5. Buying the property with someone else
6. Potential HOA issues
7. Vague deed
8. Enforcement of the sales agreement
9. Find out more about uses for the land
10. Peace of mind
Let’s take a look at each of these issues in more detail…
Title Exceptions In Real Estate
Most people understand that title insurance (which is required by lenders) helps ensure “clear title” to a property, as well as protection against other people making a claim on the property at a later date. What few people know, however, is that there are all types of encumbrances that aren’t covered in title insurance policies. These “title insurance exceptions” are rights that have been granted to someone else, somewhere along the line. They can be as simple and common as utility easements or as complex as zoning and land use exceptions. It’s best to consult a real estate attorney to fully understand what you’re buying when you buy property, particularly property in rural areas.
Easements In Real Estate
Easements are one of the most common causes of real estate disputes. Simply put, an easement refers to a landowner retaining title to a property, while granting rights to someone else to use the property for a specific purpose. Easements can be granted for everything from utilities to access, water rights to farming agreements. If you’re purchasing a property, it’s important to know what easements have already been granted and/or if you’ll need an easement from a neighbor to be able to properly use or enjoy your property. The precise wording of easements is important, which is why you should have an experienced real estate attorney review an easement or draft an easement.
Seller Disclosures In Real Estate
If, during the purchase process, the seller has disclosed something about the property that you don’t fully understand or that makes you uncomfortable, you should consult a real estate attorney before following through on the purchase.
Boundary Lines For Properties
If there’s any type of dispute or disclosure about a boundary line for a property that you’re considering purchasing, you should consult a real estate attorney. Walking away from your dream home will be a better option than finding out that part of it was built on your neighbor’s land.
Joint Tenant vs Tenants In Common In Real Estate
If you’re purchasing a property with someone else, you need to understand your full legal rights. Whether it’s your spouse, family member, friend, or business partner, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll take ownership of the property as “joint tenants” or “tenants in common.” There are legal and financial ramifications to joint tenancy and tenancy in common, as well as estate and inheritance issues if you were to die before selling the property. The scenarios, best case and worst case, are well beyond the understanding of most people, and everyone could benefit from legal advice.
If the property you’re considering purchasing is part of a homeowners association (HOA), it’s important to know what rights you will, and won’t, have to enjoy the property. A real estate attorney can review the HOA documents and see if there are any red flags or untenable rules and regulations. It’s also good to get legal advice if the owner who’s selling the property has any current violations or issues with the HOA that you could potentially be liable after you purchase the property.
Vague deed issues, in which it’s not entirely clear who owns the property, can be a nightmare and a virtual guarantee of a future lawsuit. Vague deeds often stem from family members conveying property to each other (from a parent to children, for example). But they can also arise from easements, unclear property lines, or other issues that have made it murky as to who actually owns the property and whether they have the right to sell it to you. Vague deeds aren’t necessarily a deal killer, but you should definitely have a real estate attorney review the deed and clear up any ownership issues before you agree to buy the property.
Enforcement Of The Real Estate Sales Agreement
If you have a purchase sales agreement in place for a property, and the seller tries to back out of the agreement, you should contact a real estate attorney. An experienced attorney could help enforce the agreement or help you get compensation for losing out on the property.
Acceptable Uses For The Land
Every piece of land or property has “acceptable uses.” If you’re buying a condo in the city, you’re bound by zoning laws and other city ordinances. If you’re purchasing a home in a rural area or the mountains, the acceptable uses can become even more complicated. You might or might not be able to use the property for agricultural, commercial, business, or industrial purposes. Or certain rights – such as water rights, mineral rights, or oil rights – might have been transferred away long ago. In any case, it’s better that you know exactly what you’re getting, and how you’ll be able to use the property, before you purchase it, not after. A real estate attorney can research which land uses are permissible and also identify any encumbrances on the property.
Peace Of Mind
If anything concerns you, anything at all, you should contact a real estate attorney before following through on a real estate purchase. The peace of mind that you’ll get – from an attorney who can come up with a binding, legal solution to resolve the issue or who recommends that you walk away from the deal – is priceless!
Timely Contract – We’re Here For You
In real estate transactions, time is of the essence. If you don’t meet the deadlines stated in your contract, you risk losing the right to purchase the property and/or could forfeit your earnest money. We understand this, and we created Timely Contract for the express purpose of providing legal services for real estate in a timely manner.
Our primary legal services for buyers include:
At Timely Contract we have local real estate attorneys who have experience throughout Idaho, including: Boise, Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Moscow, and Sandpoint.
We also have local real estate attorneys who have experience throughout Montana, including: Missoula, Billings, Bozeman, and Kalispell.
And we have local real estate attorneys who have experience throughout Washington, including: Spokane, Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Medical Lake, and Cheney.
This information is not legal advice. Legal advice is based on specific facts. This information is necessarily general in nature.