Before discussing how best to prepare for a purchase or sale of residence consultation, it is helpful to understand how legal consultations are conducted in general. A legal consultation is an initial meeting with an attorney, taking place before you decide whether to hire that attorney to represent you in your particular legal matter. Additionally, the attorney will use the consultation to determine if they can legally and competently represent you based on the information that you provided to them.

It is important to note that an initial legal consultation does not mean that the attorney is officially representing you, or has taken on your case. Generally, in order for an attorney to legally represent you, there must be a written representation agreement signed by both you and the attorney. Or, you must be able to prove that through their words or actions they consented to representing you.

Before the utilization of brokers, title insurance companies, and escrow agents, an attorney was the primary professional in the purchase and sale of a home. Because of this, attorneys were generally in charge of the following:

  • Negotiating the purchase and sale of the property;
  • Drafting the purchase and sale contract;
  • Reviewing title documents;
  • Assuring the validity of any title or deed involved in the process;
  • Advising purchasers and sellers regarding zoning or tax laws;
  • Negotiating financing options for the purchase of the home;
  • Guiding their client through the closing process; and
  • Handling any disputes that might arise between the purchaser and seller of the property.

Attorneys are still able to perform these duties. However, due to the extensive use of brokers, title insurance companies, and escrow agents, the role of an attorney is decreasing in the purchase and sale of a home. Generally speaking, the more complex the purchase and sales agreement is, the more necessary it is to have an attorney handling your issues.

However, there are numerous problems that can still arise. These issues would necessitate an attorney if a broker, title insurance company agent, or escrow agent over-steps their role in the purchase and sale of a home. An example of this would be if a broker writes the contract for the purchase and sale of a home, as opposed to filling in blanks in a contract drafted by an attorney. Doing so may be considered practicing law without authority.

What Documentation Should I Gather Before I Meet with My Purchase and Sale of Residence Lawyer?

Before consulting with an attorney regarding the purchase and sale of a residence, you should make sure that you properly prepare for the consultation by gathering any and all documents that are relevant to your case. It is important to bring every document you have for the attorney to review, as they will be able to properly determine which documents are relevant, and which are not.

Documents that you should bring with you may include any of the following:

  • Contracts: If your claim arose from a contract dispute regarding the residence you are attempting to sell or purchase, you should bring copies of the contract. You should also bring any supplemental documents which are responsible for further explaining the contract;
  • Property Deeds: As your claim likely involves a property dispute, you should be sure to bring a copy of the deed or any documents relating to the property. Some other examples of relevant documentation could include an oil and gas lease; and
  • Other Documents Evidencing Damages: Other important documents to bring could include any evidence of damages, such as medical records or expenses, or any warranties or letters created by the party you are trying to sue.

As previously mentioned, there are many different reasons as to why a person would seek out the counsel of an experienced attorney. Because of this fact, what is discussed in a legal consultation will heavily depend on your specific legal issue. Generally speaking, some discussions that normally occur at a consultation include the following:

  • Estimated Costs: An initial consultation will generally always include a discussion of the fees that an attorney may charge in order to represent you regarding your legal dispute. Attorney fee arrangements may be based on a contingency fee, a flat fee, or hourly fee basis. It is imperative to discuss an attorney’s fee arrangement during the consultation; and
  • Legal Claims and Facts: Although it may seem obvious, a consultation will always include a discussion of the legal facts and your legal claims. It is important to be honest in telling the attorney about your particular case, as lying about the facts or circumstances surrounding your case will lead to criminal sanctions or other civil penalties.

An example of this would be a typical family law divorce consultation. Such a consultation will include a discussion regarding the reason for divorce, a discussion of marital and separate property, and a discussion of child custody, if relevant. Additionally, such a consultation will discuss the attorneys hourly fee. Prior to the consultation, you should ask whether the consultation itself is free, which they often are.

What Makes a Purchase and Sale of Residence Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?

A real estate purchase contract is a signed agreement for the sale or purchase of real property. It outlines each party’s duties, responsibilities, and rights regarding the sale or purchase of the real property. Real estate purchase contract disputes most commonly arise after the contract has been signed by both parties, but before the entire transaction has been completed.

A dispute over closing costs is a specific type of contract dispute which involves the negotiated price of the real estate property. Some examples of the disputes that may arise which would lead to a legal case include:

  • Loan fraud;
  • Conflicts regarding good faith estimates;
  • Misrepresentation of contract terms; and
  • Disputes regarding which local laws apply to the purchase contract.

Other disputes generally involve failing to complete contingencies that must be met prior to the completion of the sale. Some examples could include:

  • Obtaining a specific type of financing;
  • Inspecting the property prior to the buyer taking possession of it; and
  • The buyer needs to sell another property by a specific date.

A strong case involving the purchase and sale of a residence would include evidence of a signed contract, along with physical evidence that the contract has not been followed. Well written real estate purchase contracts make a purchase or sale of a residence strong.

When Do I Absolutely Need a Lawyer for a Purchase and Sale of Residence?

Real estate laws and how to resolve disputes regarding the purchase and sale of a residence vary from state to state. It is possible to buy or sell a residence without the assistance of an attorney. However, it is in your best interests to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney before signing any legal document or contract, such as a listing agreement.

Experienced attorneys will be able to completely explain the issues to you, as well as what your local laws dictate and how they may influence your case. A lawyer will protect your rights, and adequately handle any disputes that might arise in the transaction.

A local and experienced real estate attorney can also assist you in navigating the home buying or selling process, as well as help to negotiate a fair price while protecting your interests. Finally, an attorney can also represent you in court, as needed, should you face any disputes.