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Do You Need to Hire a Real Estate Attorney When You Buy a House?

South Carolina lenders require title certification from a licensed S.C. attorney in any financial real estate transaction. As a result, hiring an attorney is necessary in practically all S.C. real estate closings.  Your Real Estate Attorney will make the transaction come together in a manner that is fair and amenable to both sides.  A real estate attorney takes over after the selling price and terms have been established by the realtors and all parties have signed.  He will review the contract, negotiate repairs based on the home inspection report, and collaborate with the title company.  He will also be with you at settlement along with your realtor and possibly your lending agent.  All of these people are working for you to make sure you are protected.

How Attorneys Can Help Homebuyers

Depending on your needs and where you’re buying a house, your attorney may become involved in one or more of the following homebuying tasks:

  • negotiating, creating, or reviewing the sales contract
  • overseeing the homebuying process to check for compliance with all terms and conditions of the contract
  • performing a title search or reviewing the title abstract or title insurance commitment (to determine whether there are any liens or encumbrances on the property)
  • explaining the effect of any easements or use restrictions
  • negotiating or representing you in a contract dispute with the seller, and representing you at the closing.

An attorney can be especially important in complex housebuying transactions, such as the following:

  • Legal claims have been made against your prospective house that must be satisfied by the time the property is sold.
  • You plan to rent out the cottage behind the house you’re buying and want to make sure this complies with local and state rules.
  • You hope to add a second story addition and need to make sure that won’t be a problem under local zoning ordinances.
  • Problems show up with the title: for example, the driveway is shared by the house you want to buy and the neighboring house, but that isn’t reflected in the title.
  • You’re buying a condo or home in a planned unit development and need help reviewing documents like CC&Rs.
  • You’re buying a co-op and want an attorney to review a co-op proprietary lease.
  • You’re purchasing a new house, and want an attorney’s review of the new home contract drafted by the developer.
  • You need to structure a private loan from a relative or friend to make the purchase.
  • You purchase the house jointly with others and need to structure a cobuyer agreement and document how title will be held.
  • The house you’re buying is a FSBO (“for sale by owner”).
  • You’re buying a house that is in probate, foreclosure, or a short sale.
  • You want to get out of the deal, and need a legal reason to break the contract (perhaps after you’ve removed contingencies, you found something wrong with the house).
  • The seller is trying to get out of the deal, and you suspect they simply got a better offer.

And, of course, problems can come up after the sale that require an attorney’s help—for example, the basement floods during the first rainstorm and the seller’s disclosures never noted this problem. In this case, you may want an attorney to help you get the seller to compensate you for the water damage and the cost of a new sump pump.