More than 20 states, including Massachusetts, require an attorney to be involved during real estate closings by law – so, yes, you do need an attorney in this state when you’re buying or selling. This is true even when you sell your home with an agent or on your own.
That’s actually a good thing. When you realize that this is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) financial transactions most people ever make in their entire lives, it actually seems kind of crazy that an attorney isn’t required in every state.
Why you should hire an attorney much earlier in the process
Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, bringing an attorney into the process early – well before the closing – can be wise. For example, it’s often prudent to have an attorney review the brokerage contract with the real estate agent. Often, that’s just to make sure that everyone fully understands what to expect, but it can also help you negotiate a better deal.
It is also critical to have an attorney review the purchase contract between buyers and sellers – well before the actual closing. This advance review can help both buyers and sellers negotiate issues related to:
- Title searches: This is a routine part of any real estate deal, and it often turns up flaws in the title or old liens that need to be addressed. An attorney is best suited to unraveling any difficulties that arise before they derail the deal.
- Withdrawals: If the home inspection uncovers some unexpected problems, the buyer may want to withdraw from the deal or negotiate new terms. Understanding what leeway there is can be complicated without legal help.
- Timelines: What happens if there’s some delay that causes the seller to be unready to move by closing? What happens if there’s a delay in the buyer’s funding because the lender is backed up? An attorney can make sure there are contingency plans ready.
- Complicated sales: Any property that is being sold as a short sale or after foreclosure may have unique issues. Similarly, there can be complex problems that need to be addressed when a home is sold during a divorce or as part of an estate.
In short, having an attorney involved in your real estate transactions is like having a partner who has seen it all and handled everything – and that’s highly valuable.