The most expensive thing most people will buy in their lifetime is the house in which they live. In addition to being expensive and taking decades to pay for, the purchase of a house also represents one of the more complicated legal transactions most people will ever encounter. Despite the need for contracts involving bankers, city, state and county tax assessors and other legal entities involved in the sale of land, most people never even consider hiring an attorney to assist them with the purchase of a home. That’s unfortunate, as the relatively small amount of money saved by hiring an attorney now could possibly save thousands of dollars later. Keep in mind real estate agents want those large commissions and many receive an active listing commission advance.
How can an attorney save you money? By double-checking all of the terms and documents of the transaction to make sure everything is legal and proper. Most people who buy homes don’t bother to check zoning ordinances or whether or not the home or fence on their property encroaches on that of a neighbor. An attorney can check these things along with tax issues and any one of a number of minor things that most buyers never even know to think about.
Right now in Texas, a number of homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure are engaged in lawsuits against the company that sold them their houses. Among the allegations in the case are suggestions that the company that sold the property did such things as:
Tell buyers with bad credit and even previous bankruptcies that they qualified for unusually large home loans. Some of these loans had monthly payments that exceeded 50% of the buyers’ monthly income. In short, they agreed to lend buyers money that they knew the buyers could not afford to repay.
Provide buyers with mortgage documents that stated that the property wasn’t being resold but was rather being refinanced by existing owners.
Offer loan documents that contained a number of blanks which the sellers filled in sometime after closing. Buyers were later shocked to discover that their monthly mortgage payments were much higher than they had been promised.
Showed the buyers fraudulent appraisals that suggested that the property in question was worth 2-3 times its actual value.
A lawyer would have caught any one of these problems, had even one of the displaced homeowners bothered to hire one ahead of time. And yet hundreds of buyers appear to have been victims of mortgage fraud because they weren’t willing to spend a few hundred dollars to have an attorney look over the documents before they signed them. Some times this process might have involved a real estate agent who could have been paid before closing by receiving an active listing commission advance.
Buying a house is agreeing to an obligation that can tie up your finances for decades. It only seems reasonable that if you are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a place to live, you might want to consider spending hundreds of dollars to make sure that the terms of your purchase are legal and reasonable. A little money spent now could save you a lot of money later.