Buying or Selling Residential Real Estate

The purchase of your new home, or the sale of your current home, may be the largest single purchase or sale that you will ever make. An attorney can be an invaluable counselor, not swayed by the prospect of a commission paid only upon a completed transaction.

It is important to know at the outset how much you can afford to spend. You should plan to talk to your friendly bank prior to consulting with a real estate agent. The bank will give you information regarding how much money they will loan to you based upon your income and assets. They also have information regarding the average closing costs associated with making the loan including "points" if any, attorney fees and title insurance which you will pay on the bank's behalf to secure the bank's interest in the property which you purchase. They also have information on the average housing expenses for individuals and families of various incomes. Always give yourself a comfortable margin for unexpected repairs after purchase-- these are inevitable.

Having arranged potential financing with your banker, you should seek out an experienced real estate broker familiar with your neighborhood of interest. The broker's familiarity with the area will allow her to quickly give you information regarding schools, transportation, feel of the neighborhood, and conveniences of the area which may influence your decision. She will also be familiar with current sales in the area and whether a given property is reasonably priced. Bear in mind, however, that brokers represent the seller, not the buyer unless you have a specific contract to the contrary with a "buyer's broker." Because the broker is paid, by the Seller, only upon the sale of a house, brokers will try to facilitate negotiations between Buyer and Seller so that the sale is completed and the Broker receives a commission.

Many buyers and most sellers will engage an attorney to represent them and review proposed contracts concerning the sale prior to signing. In Massachusetts, An "Offer to Purchase" is usually the first step by the Buyer, with specific contingencies and time deadlines stated in the Offer and payment of earnest money. The Offer will be followed by detailed inspections of the house (CAVEAT EMPTOR - BUYER BEWARE!), preferably by a well-recommended, certified (ASHI) home inspector. After any faults discovered in the home inspection are addressed, a Purchase and Sale Agreement (P &S), detailing any remaining contingencies, including mortgage and title contingencies, will be negotiated and executed. The P & S will be accompanied by a substantial deposit (up to 10% of the purchase price) to be held in escrow pending the "Closing" or completion of the sale (Buyer taking possession and paying Seller in full). In New Hampshire, the Purchase & Sale Agreement is signed, and then an inspection follows, along with a second deposit.

During the period between execution of the Purchase and Sale Agreement and the Closing, any necessary repairs will be accomplished, a smoke and carbon monoxide detector certificate will be obtained by Seller, the chain of title will be investigated by the bank's title attorney, and the Buyer will obtain insurance to cover the property. The Seller will arrange to move his belongings and leave the premises typically at least "broom clean" by the Closing date. If serious problems arise which require additional time, the Closing date may be postponed by mutual written agreement. On or near the Closing day, the final utility readings will be made, the Buyer will inspect the premises, and the Buyer and Seller will go to the Closing along with the brokers to exchange money for keys and sign lots and lots of papers for their respective attorneys.

If you are a Buyer, you are generally obligated to pay for the services of the bank's attorney, whose primary responsibility is to protect the bank's interest in the real estate being purchased by you. You will also pay for title insurance to insure the bank's interest. You may also wish to hire your own attorney to represent your own interests. Some Buyers and some banks' attorneys feel comfortable combining the two roles, while other Buyers prefer not to rely upon the bank's attorney. We do not represent banks in residential loan transactions.

If you have any questions regarding the legal aspects of purchasing or selling a home, please call.

Buying or Selling Commercial Real Estate

A purchase of commercial real estate has similar aspects to a residential purchase, but will involve many additional "complications," typically including environmental inspections, review of rent rolls and income for a tenanted property, analysis of parking and other aspects for a particular intended use, and review of zoning. Depending upon the size of the property, services of specialized appraisers, accountants, and other professional services, including environmental assessment professionals, may be necessary and appropriate. In some cases, we can provide all necessary legal services. In other cases, we can team up with other counsel to provide a comprehensive solution.

Commercial Leases

Whether your business is a "start up" or needs to expand to larger premises,, in addition to a good broker to find you the ideal space, it is helpful to have an attorney to review the proposed lease and address terms that are important to your particular business. Like most contracts, leases contain negotiable and non-negotiable terms, and your attorney can assist in tailoring the lease towards your particular needs. We also represent commercial landlords as needed.

Please contact us if you'd like assistance!

Additional Information

You may also wish to see our website for additional information concerning estate planning.

Link to ABA FAQ

The American Bar Association Estate Planning & Probate Section has a FAQ.