“Do I need an attorney for this?”

Packing boxes and welcome matWhen you find yourself asking this question, the answer is usually “yes.” But knowing when to get advice from an attorney is not like knowing when to see a doctor or when to drop your car off at a mechanic. The legal ramifications of many aspects of daily life are not always recognizable, especially when they involve areas in which you may not have much experience.

This is the first in an occasional series of articles aimed at answering the question “Do I need an attorney for this?”

One such situation is purchasing a home. We are fortunate in Texas that most residential purchases can be completed without an attorney’s involvement. The Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has created contract forms and addenda that work well for both buyers and sellers in most situations. Licensed Texas brokers can assist you with the completion of these forms and can provide valuable guidance regarding the amount and structure of your offer and any subsequent negotiations. However, unless your broker is also an attorney, he or she is prohibited by law from giving you legal advice and must instead advise you to talk to an attorney.

If you’re considering buying a home and need some guidance, the attorneys in our real estate practice can help.
Feel free to contact us for more information.

So, when does a buyer need legal advice from an attorney when purchasing a home? Some common examples are below:

Drafting a special addendum or provision

Do you want the seller to make an insurance claim prior to closing? Or perhaps resolve a fence dispute with their neighbor? As a general rule, whenever you find yourself going “off book” from the standard TREC forms of contracts and addenda and drafting your own provisions, you should seek the advice of attorney.

Reviewing your title commitment and survey

Unless your broker is an attorney, he or she cannot give you any advice regarding the legal effect of any easements, restrictions, or other issues affecting title to your property. Sometimes, these issues can create significant problems for you after closing, like restricting how many stories your home is, what type of exterior building materials you can use on your home, or where you can construct a shed or outbuilding. Sometimes, a survey will reveal that you are actually purchasing less property than you thought you were purchasing, or that a fence or retaining wall actually belongs to a neighbor and not your seller.

If you have any questions regarding the title commitment or survey, you should seek the advice of an attorney. Certainly, if you have identified any title issues you want your seller to cure or resolve in some manner, you should always have an experienced attorney draft the corrective instrument.

Buying a home with other people

More and more commonly, families are purchasing “multigenerational homes” with their parents or grandparents for a variety of reasons, including caretaking, affordability, and the quality family time these types of living arrangements can provide. An attorney can assist with structuring this type of purchase in a way that makes the most sense for the buyers, whether that might be purchasing the property as a family trust, as tenants in common, as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, or in some other type of structure. An attorney will also take into account the entirety of the family’s estate plan and may make suggestions to change it if the multigeneration home is purchased.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of situations that may prompt the question “Do I need an attorney for this?” as unique situations arise every day that may warrant an attorney’s advice. When in doubt, turn to an experienced attorney for counsel.

The attorneys of Brousseau Naftis & Massingill, PC, are available to advise you through any type of issue that may arise when purchasing your home, from the commonplace to the complicated. Contact us for more information.