If you’re buying or selling a property in Massachusetts, state law requires that an attorney be present at the real estate closing. This is typically the lender’s closing attorney, but buyers and sellers are free to hire their own lawyers as well, and most do.
Read on to learn why you should consider having legal representation in real estate transactions, particularly when closing on a home.
What Does an Attorney Do in a Real Estate Closing?
It’s important to understand that the lender’s closing attorney does not act for you. They will prepare the closing documents, do a title search, perform the closing itself, and file the necessary paperwork with the Registry of Deeds. Still, they won’t protect your interests specifically. As far as you are concerned, they are more of a closing agent than a lawyer, per se.
If you want to ensure someone is looking out for you, you need to hire a separate attorney. Here are some of the ways in which they can assist you:
Reviewing and negotiating the purchase agreement: Real estate agents typically draft purchase agreements using a template provided by their Realtor Board. However, every transaction is unique, so the standard template may not cover everything or contain essential provisions to protect your interests. If you have an attorney, they can review the purchase offer, ensure that it is legal, and negotiate additional terms of protection.
Managing the mortgage contingency deadline: Most contracts include a mortgage contingency clause which gives the buyer time to secure financing. If they are unable to get approval during that time, they have the option to cancel the sale or try to negotiate an extension of the deadline. However, if they fail to act by the deadline, the buyer can lose their earnest money deposit, so it is critical to ensure the right actions take place before the deadline to protect the funds.
Creating a homestead for the buyer: Massachusetts Law provides for protection for up to $500,000 in home equity against unsecured creditor claims if a homeowner files the appropriate documents to qualify. We determine the appropriate forms to file based on the circumstances of the sale and ensure that everything is filed with the applicable Registry of Deeds. This can protect home ownership from execution and forced sale.
Reviewing and explaining the mortgage documents: A mortgage is a big financial commitment you don’t want to make without legal counsel. A real estate attorney can review the lender documentation and explain the mortgage terms, including the interest rate and any fees. They can also complete the relevant paperwork on your behalf.
When To Hire an Attorney for a Real Estate Closing
Hiring a separate lawyer may not be necessary if the transaction is relatively simple and you trust the other parties. However, if the transaction is complex or of high value, you will want to seriously consider seeking independent counsel instead of relying on the lender’s closing attorney. What you pay in legal fees will more than make up for itself in saving you a lot of costs, stress, and potential issues in the future.
Closing on a House in Massachusetts? Call Us.
At Jordan & White, LLC, we have been helping Danvers, MA, residents with their property sales and purchases for over a decade. If you’re facing a real estate closing, contact us to schedule a consultation.