Why Your Clients Need to Consult a Real Estate Attorney
By Robert Nagle, Managing Partner, Nagle Law Group
(Opinion of the Author)
Recently I assisted a homeowner who retained me to review all documentation he would be asked to execute as part of selling his home. He was working with a broker on the residential transaction and hired my firm to review all of the paperwork, including forms prepared by the escrow company. Upon review of the closing documents, I discovered some glaring potential liabilities this homeowner could have faced if he had signed off with the escrow company. After discussions with the escrow officer, the issues were resolved. Amazingly, the very next week, the same legal issues arose with a new client who was using that same escrow company. I was told by the escrow agent that the concession made for the first client was a “one time” concession and would not be extended to my second client. By the next business day, the changes were in fact made.
These experiences demonstrate why you need to encourage your clients to have a real estate attorney review all documents before signing off on a deal. If you have a client that is ready to make (or accept) an offer on a property, and they have not retained a lawyer yet, make the offer contingent on a lawyer’s review and approval before your client signs anything.
This particular escrow company was pushing for quick signing of the paperwork, essentially saying there was no choice but to sign the closing documents as it was presented. Had the client signed, they would have gone from having no post-closing liability (for the deficiency balance to their lender) to potential liability, all because of the escrow company’s desire to protect its own interests. This is an intolerable practice and should be a concern to anyone who instructs the client to simply sign what is being presented to them!
Merely placing one’s initials on a page to “confirm” its approval could create liability. As a broker you undoubtedly deal with contracts all the time but let’s face it – contracts can be confusing and complicated, as can the myriad number of pages that the escrow company requests to have signed just prior to closing.
In any real estate transaction, the terms of the deal must be properly presented in a contract in order to be legally binding. Attorneys can do this by negotiating on the client’s behalf, but also ensuring that the contract addresses any specific issues that might affect the future use of the property. Seeking legal counsel from a real estate attorney will help your client:
- Correcting errors and ambiguities in the standard form agreement currently being used by brokers in Arizona
- Understand the contract, including title on the property
- Check that there are no covenants, easements, liens, etc. registered against the property that could impede the transaction
- Prepare or review all legal documents
- Clarify the terms with the bank and escrow company, and if necessary, modify them in the client’s best interest
- Scrutinize the adjustments, including taxes, prior to the transaction closing
What Can Happen Without an Attorney?
Having a real estate attorney represent your client’s interests might not be a legal requirement in Arizona, but without one, your client could be taking on unnecessary legal liabilities that they might not even understand. As is the case with those clients I previously mentioned, residential real estate transactions are becoming more complex and it is in the buyer and the seller’s best interest to consult with a real estate attorney.
Nagle Law Group’s experienced residential real estate team has been practicing real estate law for over 20 years. They pride themselves on being dealmakers and not deal breakers, an important distinction when deals present many complex questions from clients. For more information, please contact Robert Nagle at (602) 595-6951 or email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.