Question #2

What does a real estate attorney do?

There are non-legal services that claim they can do all the legal work you need or provide you with the necessary forms, but when it comes to real estate, this really isn’t the time to do-it-yourself.

Your attorney will review your contract and likely communicate with you and your real estate agent and work to coordinate your closing.  Beyond that, your attorney’s role will be specific to the transaction.

For example, if you’re a buyer on a typical residential transaction, your attorney will likely assist you in the following ways:

  • Explain your contract and, if necessary, ask for modifications
  • Verify that the seller has the right to sell the property
  • Work with your lender to make sure your lender receives the documents they need to get your transaction clear to close
  • Examine the title and public records
  • Make sure the property is zoned properly
  • Review all the documents to ensure accuracy
  • Help you understand the purchase contract, including how you will take title on the property.
  • Check that there are no covenants, easements, liens, etc. recorded against the property that will impede your use of it.
  • Review all legal documents
  • Explain the terms of your loan
  • Review your prorations for items such as real estate taxes, utilities, and assessments.
  • Attend the closing and review all the papers you will be required to sign.
  • Review your title insurance protection to protect you from losses due to title defects.
  • Ensure you receive a valid recorded deed

If you’re a seller on a typical residential transaction, your attorney should:

  • Review your sale agreement, including negotiating its terms, if necessary.
  • Prepare the deed and other closing documents, and a power of attorney if necessary should you choose not to attend the closing for any reason.
  • Deal with title issues as they arise and address them as necessary.
  • Help you get a payoff letter from your current lender
  • Help you get a paid assessment letter and certificate of insurance if you are selling a condo.
  • If your property is in Chicago, arrange clerk service to obtain a full payment certificate for your water bill and zoning certificate
  • If your property is in the burbs, your attorney will check local ordinance for required inspections, bill payment, and transfer taxes in your area.
  • Finally, your attorney will attend the closing, either with you or on your behalf, and review all the papers you will be required to sign.

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