Not only is buying a home the largest financial transaction of your life, but it also involves many complex legal issues. And that means much could go wrong to land you in legal hot water if you don’t understand the legal aspects of buying and selling real estate. That’s also why it’s a good idea to use both a top-notch real estate agent and a real estate attorney. But you, as a buyer or seller, also need at least a broad understanding of the legal aspects of buying and selling real estate in Seattle. So let’s get started.
Most Common Legal Issues
While real estate transactions involve a host of legal issues, there are a few things in buying and selling real estate in Seattle that crop up more often. Typically, these are differences or problems between the buyer and seller and title issues.
Buyer/seller legal problems in buying and selling real estate in Seattle are perhaps the most common. Here’s an example: “Say perhaps you’ve made an offer on a home, but all of a sudden, the seller becomes reluctant. Perhaps he or she got another offer for more money after accepting yours and wants to renege on your contract or make you pay more.” When a situation like this arises, don’t hesitate to consult your attorney and your agent. (To discover more, call 206-271-7100.)
Title issues are fairly common as well. If, for example, you are selling real estate in Seattle and the title search reveals that there is an unpaid (and often unknown to the seller) debt, you can’t sell your house till the debt is taken care of. This scenario often takes place when one spouse gets a judgment from a creditor against him or her unbeknownst to the other spouse. Other common sources of title issues are divorce and inheritance.
Other Legal Aspects of Buying/Selling Real Estate in Seattle
One of the important legal aspects of buying and selling real estate in Seattle involves the language used in contracts and other legal documents. You absolutely must avoid unclear and/or ambiguous language and phrasings.
Most often the source of this issue is the use of boilerplate forms. Many people involved in buying and selling real estate in Seattle often use standard forms expecting them to cover all circumstance and contingencies. Or they try to customize these boilerplate forms in less than adequate ways. The result is often the language that isn’t clear enough to head off all legal issues.
One critical document that is especially susceptible to the use of unclear or ambiguous language is the purchase agreement. “The purchase agreement,” according to real estate pros, “is the single most important document in the transaction. Although standard printed forms are useful, a lawyer is helpful in explaining the form and making changes and additions to reflect the buyer’s and the seller’s desires. There are many issues that may need to be addressed in the purchase agreement.”
Besides expected matters like price and payment, a good purchase agreement should address the following:
- The legality of any property alterations or additions
- What happens when the inspection turns up major problems
- What happens when closing doesn’t take place
After the purchase agreement has been satisfactorily hammered out and signed, a title search usually takes place next. The purpose of the title search is “to establish the state of the seller’s title to the property to the buyer’s – and the finance institution’s – satisfaction.” Still, the title search doesn’t say anything about existing or prospective zoning, so you may have to consult your agent here.
Closing – “the most important event in the purchase and sale transaction” – is an area in buying and selling real estate in Seattle loaded with legal aspects and potential pitfalls. “The closing process can be confusing and complex to the buyer and seller.” In addition, there “may also be last-minute disputes about the delivering possession and personal property or the adjustment of various costs, such as fuel and taxes.”
Here’s what typically takes place at closing:
- The buyer pays the balance of the purchase price
- The title passes from seller to buyer
- The previously prepared closing statement is reviewed
- The deed and mortgage instruments are signed
Don’t Try It Alone
As you can see, then, the legal aspects of buying and selling real estate in Seattle are both many and significant. So if you want the transaction to go smoothly all the way through closing, you have to make sure all these legal technicalities have been properly and adequately addressed. And that’s why you need to retain the services of both a real estate agent and an attorney. Although your agent can’t provide legal advice, her expertise will still be an invaluable asset here. Find out how our agents can help you navigate this legal minefield. Contact us today! 206-271-7100