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Does California Require a Lawyer for Real Estate Transactions?

Good question. The short answer is, no. But there’s also a big however. The general consensus is that you should consult an attorney when your transaction reaches the legal point. Once papers are signed and terms ‘agreed’ upon, there is little you can do to legally ‘unbind’ yourself from certain contractual agreements you neither fully understood or noticed. Face it. There’s little point in playing legal Russian Roulette with the most important purchase of your life. Well-meaning and personable as your agent might be, remember, his or her primary goal is to close the deal, not to make sure you are adequately legally protected.

A real estate attorney helps with purchase negotiations, analyzing contracts, resolves inspection and permit issues, finalizes closings. Trying to wade through the legalities involved, an attorney is much better equipped to catch an contractual abnormalities that might end up costing you time and money in the long run.

The Pitfalls of Self Filing

Misinterpreting Standard Forms

Although standard fill-in-the-blank purchase and sale agreements are routinely used in California, there are many pre-printed purchase agreements in the real estate industry. In addition, although frequently referred to as “standard,” their terms can vary widely.  Remember:

  • When it comes to printed forms, language is for convenience only and each and every term in the document is negotiable.
  • Wait! Before you sign on the dotted line, an attorney should review the terms and make sure you understand the legal implications of the contract.
  • A lawyer is there to help you with all of this and should be consulted before you sign any purchase or sale agreement.

Over Assessing Legal Costs

Although a real estate agent can fill-in a “standard” purchase agreement for you, they cannot advise you on the legal significance of the terms of your agreement. Only a licensed attorney is allowed to provide legal advice. Remember:

  • He or she has no vested interest other than your protection under the law.
  • A lawyer’s fees will generally be based on the complexity of the transaction, not the purchase price of the home.
  • As a home purchase is a relatively simple transaction, legal fees should not be out of reach. Ask about flat fees you can factor into closing costs.

Different Documents for Different Purchase Types

Documents for various purchases are not one size fits all. This is not a grocery store. You’ll need a lawyer to sort out what is needed. Some document obviously written in  legal jargon will need legal interpretation to ensure the best possible protection for both the buyer and seller.

Unresolved Boundary and Title Disputes

Nothing can be worse than the happy anticipation of home ownership dashed by issues involving property boundaries and ownership titles. Generally ownership titles are fairly clear cut, but you never know. Boundaries on the other hand can be a game changer in a real estate deal. A good attorney can sort out these issues a lot quicker than sellers or buyers.

Unforeseen Complexities in Commercial Real Estate

While residential real estate purchases may be pretty straightforward, the buying and selling of commercial properties involve a whole panoply of issues: parking regulations, zoning use, waste disposal and other restrictions. Know what they are before you commit.

Call Us:

Still not sure? If you’re living in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Westwood and surrounding CA communities, attorneys at the The Law Office of Eric J. Proos is here to answer all of your real estate questions. Get a free 15-minute consultation now at (213) 784-3640.

All information provided in this article is for educational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. Each situation is dependent on the specific facts and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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