Q. I have been told that buying a home in California is so much easier because attorneys are not usually involved. Do I need an attorney when I buy or sell a home in New York?
A. In the State of New York, you are not required by law to be represented by an attorney when you buy or sell a home. Whether it is recommended or wise to buy or sell a home without the assistance of an attorney is another question.
Buying a home is generally the largest single purchase you will make. You will likely finance 80% or more of the purchase price, committing yourself to making payments for 30 years. Selling your home can expose you to certain risks and unintended consequences. Since so much is at stake, you need to ask yourself: Can I afford to purchase a home without the assistance of an attorney?
It is like the old Fram oil filter commercial, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” You may buy or sell a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and then have to pay an attorney tens of thousands of dollars, or more, to resolve issues in court that may have been resolved before the home was bought/sold. By spending around $1,200.00 for an experienced real estate attorney now, you can greatly reduce the risk of costly problems later.
The following questions will help you determine whether you need the assistance of an attorney:
- Can buyers lose their downpayment, if they do not get financing?
- Are there any changes to the standard real estate contract used in New York that should be made to protect a buyer or seller?
- If the buyers obtain title insurance, are there any risks that they have to be concerned with?
- Should a seller give the buyer a Property Condition Disclosure Statement?
- Are there limitations regarding changes or additions a buyer can make to the home after closing?
- The seller told the buyer that the property line was 30 feet to the left of the driveway. The neighbor is putting up a fence that is only 10 feet from the driveway. How could this have been avoided?
- The home has a common driveway with one or more other homes. Are there any pitfalls to this arrangement?
- The home is part of a homeowners association, a condominium unit or a cooperative apartment. Are there any pitfalls to these types of homes?
- Are you familiar with what will happen at the closing and understand the significance of all the documents that will be signed?
- Do you know what expenses will be apportioned between the buyer and seller at the closing?
If you do not know the answer to all of these questions, then it is wise to spend money on an attorney now, and not risk having to spend tens of thousands of dollars later. These questions and more will be answered in future installments of this series.
William E. Duquette, Jr. is an associate on the firm’s Real Estate Team. He can be reached by phone at 845-778-2121 toll free or 845-778-2121 and by email.