When representing a seller, a real estate attorney may draft or review the real estate contract, provide general advice, resolve title issues, negotiate transaction terms, and review closing paperwork. Sometimes, the seller’s attorney also prepares the deed and closes the transaction.
Click a topic to learn more about what a real estate attorney does for a seller.
The seller’s attorney reviews or drafts the real estate contract.
Sometimes, one or both parties have a real estate agent. In this case, the agent might prepare the initial draft of the real estate contract. If so, the seller’s attorney will simply review the contract to ensure that it is fair and reasonable for the seller. If an agent does not prepare the contract, then the seller’s real estate attorney can prepare the first draft.
In most transactions, a buyer makes an offer by sending a proposed purchase contract to the seller. If this occurs, then the buyer or the buyer’s agent likely prepared the first draft of the contract. The seller’s attorney would then review the contract and either approve it or request changes. If the contract requires adjustment or additional language, the attorney can negotiate those changes for the seller.
The seller’s attorney negotiates transaction terms.
For example, the buyer and seller might disagree on the closing date, earnest money, or inspection. If so, the seller’s real estate attorney can engage in discussions with the buyer’s attorney or agent and try to achieve more favorable terms for his client.
Many times, the buyer and seller breeze over the standard terms of the real estate contract. In the beginning, all is well and both parties are hopeful for an easy and uneventful transaction.
But the best time to lock in favorable transaction terms is before the contract has been signed. Seemingly insignificant details can generate problems later on. A real estate attorney can identify and prevent those problems before they occur by negotiating favorable changes to the contract.
The seller’s attorney gives general transaction advice.
After the contract has been signed, there is a period of several weeks or months before closing. During this period, the buyer may conduct inspections, seek financing, and arrange for closing. Frequently, questions arise prior to closing about what the parties can and cannot do. The seller’s attorney is there to answer those questions based on the purchase contract and applicable state law.
- For example, what if the buyer wants to close early?
- What if the buyer cannot close by the deadline?
- What if the buyer makes an objection to the property condition?
- What if the buyer’s bank requests an extension?
The seller’s attorney can answer these questions and draft documents to resolve them. Aside from reviewing the contract, this is the most important thing a real estate attorney does for a seller.
Some of the most common pre-closing questions can be handled by a real estate agent. But irregular issues may require customized documents and legal advice. And sometimes, neither party has a real estate agent to assist with miscellaneous questions.
The seller’s attorney resolves title issues.
In addition to inspecting the property itself, the buyer also inspects the property’s title prior to closing. The seller’s attorney or title insurance company usually runs title and identifies any possible title defects prior to closing. If a title defect rears its head, the buyer can potentially back out of closing. But most contracts allow the seller an opportunity to cure the title defect. Curative title work is one of the main tasks a real estate attorney does for a seller.
Hopefully, the title issue can be resolved with a simple quitclaim deed or opinion letter. But in some, cases, the seller’s attorney must perform a quiet title action or a probate to resolve the issue. In addition to fixing the title issue, the seller’s attorney may also negotiate with the buyer to extend the contract while performing the curative title work.
The seller’s attorney may draft or review the deed.
In some states, real estate transactions close through a title insurance company, in which case the title company prepares and records the deed. In other states, transactions close through an attorney, in which case the seller’s attorney likely prepares and records the deed.
Even if a title insurance company handles the closing, the seller’s attorney might review the deed and the closing paperwork to help ensure that closing occurs smoothly. Or, the buyer may opt out of title insurance completely. If so, the seller’s attorney will likely draft the deed.
The seller’s attorney may draft or review unique financing arrangements.
If the transaction involves unique financing, such as owner financing, lease purchase financing, or similar arrangements, the seller’s attorney may draft or review the financing documents.
For example, an owner financing arrangement usually requires a mortgage, promissory note, deed, and amortization schedule at minimum. The seller’s attorney (or the buyer’s attorney) may draft or review those documents.
The seller’s attorney may close the transaction in-house.
If a title insurance company does not handle closing, the seller’s attorney might conduct a physical closing conference at the law office. In some states, it is standard practice for attorneys to close transactions. In other states, attorneys only close transactions in-office when the parties opt out of title insurance. A closing conference typically requires both the buyer and seller to attend in-person and sign the deed and related documents with a notary.
The seller’s attorney prevents or resolves transaction disputes.
In the unfortunate event that the transaction goes awry, the seller’s attorney may step in to help prevent or resolve a legal dispute. If the seller involves an attorney from the beginning of the transaction, the attorney is in a better position to protect the seller’s interests in an unexpected dispute.
Transaction disputes almost always arise from unanticipated or uncommunicated issues. Addressing those issues quickly is one of the most important things a real estate attorney does for the seller.