Buying or selling your home is probably the most significant financial transaction you will ever engage in. Do you need a lawyer? That is a personal question only you can answer. In most standard transactions in Utah, an experienced real estate agent can guide you through the process. A great agent will tell you to call in a lawyer when an issue arises that is outside the scope of the agent's expertise. Here are a few guidelines for when it might be time to call in a lawyer experienced in real estate issues:
1. You Want a Second (or Third) Set of Eyes to Review Your Agreement. Your real estate purchase contract ("REPC") and its addenda constitute a contract in the eyes of the law. When you sign one, you obligate yourself to perform certain obligations, make certain disclosures, and owe certain duties to the opposite party and to the agents and brokers involved in the transaction. A REPC with several addenda can quickly become a very complicated agreement. If you want to be sure you understand everything you are agreeing to, a simple consultation with a real estate lawyer can give you peace of mind and let you ask the "what if" questions that might otherwise keep you awake at night.
2. An Issue Arises that your Agent Wants to Have Reviewed. An experienced real estate agent knows when it is time to call in a lawyer. Great agents have a relationship with a real estate lawyer they can recommend. Home inspections and title reports can both reveal issues that only a lawyer is qualified to advise you on. Easements, shared driveways, the status of neighboring properties, HOA requirements, lead abatement, mold abatement, complicated estate planning issues, planning and zoning... all of these and more can be involved in your home purchase or sale. An experienced real estate lawyer can guide you through these and many other issues.
3. When the Transaction is in Danger of Going Sideways. Sometimes you just get a sense that something might not be right or something isn't going smoothly. That can be a great time to bring in a lawyer to look things over. A lawyer may be able to help you save a transaction that is getting strange. A lawyer can tell you when it's time to pull the plug and walk away, and what the consequences might be for doing so. A lawyer can also help you avoid the most serious consequences of a breach of the purchase and sale agreement.
4. To Represent you at Closing. A closing can be a complex undertaking. Why not have someone there who represents you and only you? The bank has a lawyer. The title company has a lawyer. Even your realtor has a lawyer. Wouldn't you feel better knowing that you have a lawyer at your closing to advise you on any last minute issues that might arise? For a very small cost, you can have a lawyer represent you at closing and make sure that everything goes smoothly, or gets handled properly when issues arise.
Of course not every home purchase or sale requires a lawyer, but a small investment in having a lawyer review your documents and represent you at closing can prevent some serious and important issues from derailing your transaction.