Clients sometimes ask me whether they need a lawyer for their closing, especially if it seems to be a simple, uncomplicated transaction. My answer is, “always!” (And not just because I am a lawyer.)
In my years practicing real estate law, I have seen numerous cases of people who skipped on the attorney, then contacted me afterward when they realized some aspect of the deal wasn’t in their favor. Had I been onboard early, I would have looked out for this client’s interest. But late in the game, after a contract is signed and agreements made, there is sometimes not much I can do.
A Florida real estate attorney is the only member of your home-buying or -selling team qualified to give you legal advice. Smart clients contact me before they even sign the contract (or they write “subject to my attorney’s review within three business days” on the bottom, then have me look at it), so I can point out parts of the deal they may not even know they are agreeing to.
Plus, if I issue you title insurance, you won’t even be paying more than a title company to have me on board. Yet a title company doesn’t represent your interests in the transaction; I do. And since I am up to date in current Florida real estate law, I may be able to alert you to potential issues with your deal. For example, you may not realize there are various ways you can structure who will pay any homeowners association or condo association special assessments that are issued after the contract is signed (a pressing issue with these active hurricane seasons). If you are the seller, it is in your best interest to be responsible for special assessments only until the contract is signed; if you are the buyer, you would rather have the seller be responsible until closing.
My office performs the same duties as a title company (obtain a title search; evaluate the status of the title; remedy any title defects; deal with all banks, city agencies, associations and the like; prepare closing statements and other closing documents; facilitate at the closing). But in addition, I am able to review your contract (before signing) and ensure all provisions are in your best interest; inform you of your legal rights and obligations; represent you should any problems or issues arise before closing; and be available to answer any lingering legal questions after you have closed.
Even if a title company is handling the closing documents, it is beneficial to have an attorney review the documents and represent your interests, whether you are a buyer or a seller. I charge a modest, reasonable fee for such a service.