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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

If you have never bought a house or other real property in the state of New York, you might not realize that it is illegal for your real estate agent or broker to prepare the sales contract or provide any legal advice about the agreement. While it is standard practice for the agent or broker to draft the sales contract in some other states, New York law requires the buyer or seller (or their attorney) to write the agreement.

A New York real estate attorney can help you if you are wondering whether you really need an attorney to buy a house. The short answer is that it is legal for you to act as your own attorney and write the contract or sign the agreement the other party’s lawyer prepared, but it can be a costly mistake to do so.

What Is at Stake?

The other party’s attorney does not have your best interests in mind, so the contract that the lawyer will write will likely be to the advantage of the other party. If you try to write the agreement, you might make mistakes that have substantial financial or legal ramifications.

A house is often the most expensive thing a person ever buys. It can be challenging to find a bank that will provide a mortgage if you do not have a lawyer representing you. Since you will most likely need an attorney to qualify for the mortgage, it makes sense to have the lawyer on board from the beginning, before you sign the sales contract.

What Real Estate Attorneys Do for Their Clients

The specific tasks a real estate lawyer will perform will vary from one situation to another, depending on the arrangement between the attorney and client. Some real estate buyers or sellers have a small budget and only want a lawyer to give the paperwork a quick read to ensure there is nothing outrageous in the documents. A full-service real estate attorney can provide these services for a client:

  • Draft or read the sales contract.
  • Do a search to see if there are any liens on the property.
  • Answer your questions, explain your legal obligations, and address your concerns.
  • If you buy a condo or co-op, your lawyer can check the board meeting minutes to see if there have been any problems in the building during recent years.
  • Review the loan and title commitments.
  • Read the closing documents to make sure that the charges assessed to you are accurate.
  • Attend the closing and handle any issues that might arise.
  • Handle the closing and title paperwork.
  • Follow-up after the closing to verify that the closing company performed its tasks.

You could find working with a real estate attorney from the start to be beneficial. For example, your lawyer might discover issues that could reduce the sales price, potentially saving you more money than the legal fees you will pay for the attorney’s services.

Buying a house in New York is more complicated than in some other states. A New York real estate attorney can guide you through this process and help you avoid expensive mistakes. Contact our office today!

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.