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Lawyer Up

Fiduciary Responsibility(Let it be known that I type this post, whilst an 11 lb baby boy sleeps in a sling around my neck).

In my line of work, there is plenty of ambiguity. I’m often not sure how to get the best return for my limited time; or if I should spend money on hiring an Admin, or an SEO consultant; or if someone is telling me the truth; or, my least favorite, if a particular agent says he is working for the buyer or the seller is he really? This last one frequently bites people-especially inexperienced buyers-in the derriere. Why is that? Real estate transactions and residential real estate in particular, are often negotiated through third parties. In these instances, you want to unambiguously trust the person you’ve hired.

I’m sure you’ve all walked into an open house and had the agent, i.e. the seller’s agent; tell you that the owner was flexible or would take much less than the asking price. Say what? That agent, in theory, is working on behalf of the seller, their client. So why are they lowering the asking price behind the seller’s back? Furthermore, I’ve had “buyer’s brokers”[1] come to my open houses and tell me things like, my client will offer X, but I think that she can go as high as Y. Well thank you for that information, Sir or Madam. Now I’m going to go right back to my client and tell him to counter your client with Y+Z.

Granted, these examples don’t typify all agent/brokers, but they do represent some. One problem is the business is very loosely regulated and the requirements are slim (in New York State, it’s just as difficult to be licensed as a cosmetologists, not that I’m knocking cosmetologists).

My point, after all of this, is that you need to hire a real estate attorney before you enter into a transaction. They are highly educated, they work only for you, and they eat, sleep, and breathe the attorney-client privilege thing. Whatever you say to them is between you and them. Everything they do is for the benefit of you, the client. Nice huh?

Here are just some of the services they’ll provide:

  • Draw up and negotiate a contract of sale;
  • Order and Review Title Insurance;
  • Review all bank documents;
  • Review a co-op’s or condo’s offer plan, financial statements, and meeting minutes;
  • Attend the closing;

And if that’s not enough, they’ll answer all of your questions honestly, and have nothing at all to sell you. Their only focus is completing the transaction for you. They also provide a fresh, impartial set of eyes on your deal – which is particularly helpful to first-time buyers and buyers who are, themselves, lawyers (yes, you lawyers should hire lawyers too).

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading, Jim.


[1] For more on so-called “buyers brokers” read I work for you (but I don’t work for you)

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Categories: Buy It
  1. March 12, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Good Blog. I will continue reading it in the future. Nice layout too.

    Aaron Wakling

  2. Steve Bruner
    March 13, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you for another great post! I’m always amazed when people go into major transactions without a lawyer. (for the record I’m not a lawyer).

    Thanks Jim!!

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