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The Typical Residential

Real Estate Sales Transaction:

An Overview for Buyers and Sellers  

NOTE:  This article is intended to be a brief summary of law only, parts of which may or MAY NOT be applicable to your situation and/or your local jurisdiction(s).  Any information you glean from this article DOES NOT constitute legal advice and should be supplemented with the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in your locality.

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The process of buying or selling a home can be time consuming and even bewildering to the uninitiated. Fortunately, the process has become much more standardized as a variety of state and federal laws have greatly increased the body of regulatory oversight (and paperwork) involved in such transactions. Thus, although, as explained below in The Role of the Attorney, obtaining legal counsel to help guide you through a home sale or purchase is essential, the good news is that the overall process can be straightforward if the right steps are taken by the various parties from the very beginning.

one can divide the typical residential real estate transaction into five basic parts or steps:

1.) Preliminary Matters;
2.) Employing the Services of a Real Estate Agent/Broker (or not - For Sale by Owner);
3.) Negotiating the Real Estate Sales Contract;
4.) Pre-Closing Matters (e.g., inspections, mortgage issues, etc.); and
5.) The Closing.

1.) Preliminary Matters. Certain things should be done before a Seller or Buyer seeks to involve other parties in the sale or purchase of a home. For example, a wily prospective Seller should always check around his/her local community to determine the prices at which similar homes are being sold. A Seller should always have an idea of what his/her home is worth (i.e., information based on more than the price he/she paid for the home!) before involving a broker, etc. Similarly, a prospective Buyer of real estate should always survey the market prior to looking at particular homes. Fortunately, resources for Buyers/Sellers of real estate sales are now quite voluminous, thanks to the Internet. [See Real Estate Web Links.] Now, one can quickly and cheaply (i.e., usually for free) search online databases to determine locations, sale dates and even sale prices!


The Role of the Attorney in a Real Estate Transaction

while the foregoing list may appear to be simple enough at first glance, all it takes is a few deviations from the typical transaction for a real estate sale to become a massive headache. Without out a doubt, anyone seeking to buy or sell a piece of residential real estate ought to hire a lawyer to counsel/represent him/her in the matter. This is particularly true given a cost/benefit analysis of an attorney’s role in the typical real estate sale. In almost every such transaction, of all the third-party individuals sitting around the Closing table - e.g., brokers, agents, insurers, etc. - it is the lawyer(s) who will have the largest work load, will take on the most responsibility for making sure all documents are in order, and will be paid the least amount of money!

[Illinois and New York residents: Click here for a list of our firm’s fees.]

Depending on the stage at which he/she begins representing a particular party to a real estate transaction, an attorney should: i.) negotiate, draft and/or review the terms of the real estate sales contract to make sure it comports with his/her client’s interests and expectations, ii.) facilitate, expedite and manage the production/processing of all riders, disclosures, requests for information related to the transaction, etc. (so that the clients can be planning their move, instead), iii.) review and advocate on behalf of his/her client regarding all pre-Closing issues, iv.) for a Buyer, explain and counsel him/her regarding mortgage issues/documents, and v.) represent/counsel his/her client at the Closing.

See Also:

Common Law Vs.
Civil Law

The Statute of Frauds

Doctrine of Equitable

Jump Ahead
in this document:

Preliminary Matters


The Role
of the Attorney


Hiring a Real Estate


Real Estate Seller’s Agent

Real Estate Buyer’s Agent

Real Estate Broker


Negotiating the
Real Estate Contract

‘For Sale By Owner’

Deciding Key Terms


Pre-Closing Matters

Mortgage Issues


The Closing

The Deed

Affidavit of Title
ALTA Statement

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If you would like further information about this topic, or would like to request attorney services for the writing, negotiation or closing of a real estate contract, click here to contact us today.

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© Roger Galer, 2004

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