Many of you will think this is a pretty stupid question  , and I understand why. I’m bringing this up simply because there are a few answers besides a simple “YES”. I’ll go over them right here while sharing with you the reason I’m asking this question and believe me ya gotta hear this one. Let’s get started ….


What got me going on this is the experience a close friend of mine is having with the sale of a house she owns in a pretty ritzy, uppity place out West. I use that description because I know she’ll read this and I need to get in a dig or 2 along the way. Anyways , her experience has raised a lot of questions during this rather spirited discussion that continues today. Why do you want a lawyer and do you even need one? The simple answer is many times you should have one and probably need one.

Over the years I’ve been involved in literally hundreds of real estate transactions and have seen a lot of people buy land without having any legal representation. Now, this isn’t necessarily a risk because I do have a lawyer handling this stuff for me and he/she is always available to the buyer if they have questions. Of course they’re always advised the attorney works for me but  answering some simple questions is just common courtesy. A land transaction is certainly different from buying a house in that all that inspection , mortgage etc. stuff often doesn’t apply. What we really want to know is if the title to the property is clear  and warranted. If you have that then you pretty much have what you need no matter how you get it. Often times my customers don’t hire a lawyer because I always provide a Warranty Deed so they don’t feel the need to hire anyone to get what is already available to them. So why the questions regarding this?

My friend owns a house in a state where lawyers don’t do closings on real estate transactions if you can imagine this. The closings are done through the real estate broker/salesperson(s) and a title company. Now, title companies will often take care of closings on simple transactions between friends/family etc. but they rarely handle an “arms length” transaction without lawyers being involved. So what’s the risk? Do you think the average broker/salesperson is qualified to answer the questions that come up in a typical deed transfer? They aren’t. I’m a longtime licensed broker here in NY and I certainly don’t consider myself qualified, not too mention it’s against the law for me to give legal advice. My friend has been taking advice from her listing broker’s salesperson who brags of her “28 years of experience”. This salesperson has handed out some advice that would cost someone their license in NY. So far the cost of her advice is $5000 for my friend and it isn’t over yet. This $5000 stems from a title insurance policy my friend has been swindled into paying for that will be an owners policy for the person she’s selling her house to !!!! My friend was told she had to do this and she will be “listed” on the policy. What exactly does “listed” mean? Nothing to be exact since my friend will no longer have any interest in this property she cannot own or benefit from any title policy that’s in someone else’s name. So my friend gets a copy of this title policy yesterday and learns my advice was exactly right , her name is nowhere to be found on the $5000 policy she’s paying for. In her defense I’ll admit she took my advice a couple weeks ago and hired a lawyer out there. Unfortunately her lawyer is as crooked as the salesperson and undoubtedly will benefit financially from this policy. You can read more about my title insurance opinions here for a  better understanding of what’s going on. Long story short , this lawyer told my friend she would be “covered” by this policy in the event anything came up in the future regarding the title of the house she’s selling. Where I live this is called bullshit , where you live it’s called an outright lie.

My point is when you’re buying/selling real estate you better make sure someone other than a salesperson is giving you advice , the legal variety. If you look at it from the perspective of “who’s making money here” you will soon conclude you don’t want advice from someone who’s being compensated based on the sale price of the property. If you hire an attorney they will give you a price for handling the closing and that is that , simple. If you’re getting advice , like my friend has , from people who are benefiting based on the sale price then you’re opening the door to taking one in the backside. In my friend’s case she’s being advised by a salesperson who’s getting a commission off this sale and an attorney who has his dirty hands in the title policy business and is gonna pocket a nice check from selling a worthless product.

Buying/selling property can be stressful enough , especially if you haven’t done much of it in the past. Keep it simple and keep it safe. If you aren’t 100% comfortable hire an attorney and relax. They do this stuff all the time and can do it in their sleep. For what they charge to handle a closing believe me it’s money well spent. Whatever ya do , stay the hell out of Wyoming where they still do business like it’s 1815.

As always thanks for stopping by and please share with friends or whoever it is you enjoy annoying ! mj

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