Priscilla Toomey on Real Estate: Can’t We Just Leave It to the Lawyers? Print


By Priscilla R. Toomey, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Apr. 3, 2019:  Many people believe that once price and terms have been agreed to in a real estate purchase and sale, they can just turn the deal over to the lawyers to “take care of things.”

That is not a good idea. A real estate transaction takes a team to be completed successfully and communication between the team members needs to be frequent, candid, and ongoing. The seller or buyer is, of course, a key member of the team. So are the lawyer, the real estate agent, and the lender.

Below are some of the crucial functions each of those three team members contributes.  

The Real Estate Agent:  The “physical” side of the transaction  

  • Property preparation/search – For a seller, the home needs to be readied to be put on the market, from staging to preparation of a floor plan to professional photography, and recent comparable sales need to be analyzed to help the seller price it correctly from the get-go. From the buyer’s perspective, this includes identifying suitable homes through the property search and providing recent comparable sale information to help negotiate price and terms once a home has been selected.

  • Hold both broker and public open houses for a seller and let a buyer know about public open houses to attend, negotiate price and terms, and accompany a buyer’s inspector on the home inspection.

  • Make sure the purchase memo, which the seller’s lawyer will use as the basis for the contract, is accurate.

  • Prepare a package of recent comparable sales information for the appraisal.

  • Coordinate with the agent for the other party wherever needed, help their client prepare for the closing, and accompany the buyer on the walk-through right before the closing to make sure everything is as it was at the time of the inspection and that any agreed-upon repairs have been made. 

The Lawyers: The documentary side of the transaction  

  • Make sure the contract accurately reflects the agreed-upon terms of the deal and that their client is protected by its terms. Contracts are not binding until signed by both sides and the down payment is in the hands of the seller’s lawyer.

  • Make sure title is clear – that the certificate of occupancy includes the current state of the property, that the removal of any underground oil tank is properly documented, that any issues from the inspection have been addressed in writing, and that any disclosures that are required have been made.

  • Make sure an up-to-date survey is in hand.

  • Coordinate with the lender and the real estate agent to answer any questions (keep in mind that the lawyer has almost never seen the property first-hand).

  • Prepare all documents for the closing, manage the closing process with the lender, title company, and the parties, and make sure that title to the property is recorded with the appropriate authorities.  

The Lender: The financial side of the transaction whenever there is a mortgage involved  

  • Review the buyer’s financial documents and issue a pre-approval.

  • Arrange for the appraisal.

  • Issue a good-faith estimate so the buyer can get an idea of what the closing costs will be, though the final numbers may vary.

  • Make sure the buyer has submitted documentation of homeowner’s insurance.

  • Issue the commitment and then a clear-to-close once final approval has been given for the mortgage.  

As always, “the devil is in the details” and there are many more details than can be listed here – and they vary from transaction to transaction. But the purpose of this article is to give an overview to emphasize that success depends on teamwork – and it will pay off in both the buyer and seller feeling comfortable throughout the transaction.  

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, licensed associate real estate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty, 2 Park Place, Bronxville, NY 10708; cell, 914-559-8084; email, CLOAKING .   

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty 

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