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Do New York Real Estate Transactions Require an Attorney?

Buying a home in New York can be extremely exciting.  And, since it’s such a complex transaction and likely the most expensive investment one could make, it could, by nature of it, come with many challenges and cause serious legal consequences.

But, it doesn’t have to be so daunting.  That is, if you have legal representation.  Real estate attorneys play an important role in real estate transactions and can help you through the intricacies of NYC property law.

While technically it’s within your legal rights to buy a property without an attorney, it’s not only unusual, but can also be very risky – here’s why you need a New York estate attorney on your side:

Ninety-nine percent of the time, real estate transactions in New York City involve legal representation on both the buyer and seller side.

One of the main reasons for this is because in New York State, all real estate contracts of sale need to be drawn up by the principle or the seller or buyer’s attorney – it is against the law for real estate agents and brokers to draw up any sales contracts or to review them for the purposes of legally advising you.

If you are a buyer and you’re not an attorney yourself and you don’t hire one, you run the risk of getting a contract devised by your seller’s attorney, probably only representing their, and not your, best interests.

A real estate attorney would conduct due diligence and scrutinize the deal for legal or financial risks to ensure your legal rights and interests are protected before the contract signing.

For instance, wouldn’t you want to find out if the building you are considering buying had a history of lead paint or mold beforehand?

Among many other reasons to have an attorney from the get-go is that most banks will not lend you money for a mortgage without legal representation.

Unless you are very experienced with NY Real Estate, waiving your right to legal representation will most likely result in you needing one down the road anyway, and it will be more expensive and with more headaches and inconveniences.

Ideally, a trustworthy and experienced real estate lawyer will do much more than just show up for the contract signing.  He or she would do the due diligence, negotiate the deal for fairness and represent you at the contract closing. 

This would include reviewing the contract, loan and title commitments, searching for liens, verifying charges are correct and fair, handling title and closing documents, confirming the title company completed its job after closing, and addressing any of your questions and concerns.

If you’re purchasing a co-op or a condo in New York City, your attorney should also review several years’ worth of the co-op or condo’s board meeting minutes before the closing to obtain information about ongoing and potentially expensive problems in the building.  Also, your lawyer can help you with sublease agreements, in case you want to sublet and get some money towards your mortgage payments.

Your lawyer should also review financial statements, and your offering plan, which will include details like bylaws and special risks; for an older building, these documents can include other information that as a buyer you should be aware of.

There are certain items your attorney may discuss with you regarding closing costs, such as the NY transfer taxes and NYC mansion tax.

As far as the price of the property, while it’s generally set by the real estate agent, or negotiated between the seller and buyer’s agents, the attorney can actually investigate to determine if the price and all other charges are justified.

For instance, if the home is listed as three bedrooms, but your lawyer determines one of the bedrooms does not meet legal requirements – it could lead to a price cut.

Finally, the NYC real estate laws and regulations are quite unique, and it’s a good idea to have an attorney who is experienced with real estate transactions or actually specializes in real estate in New York.

A seasoned New York real estate lawyer will assist you in preparing all complex negotiations and contracts, take steps to ensure that you are aware of any legal particulars, and help ensure a real estate transaction proceeds smoothly.

The Levin Law Group’s law firm can assist individuals and business entities in a broad spectrum of residential and commercial real estate transactions throughout New York State and New Jersey.

Take steps to ensure your interests are protected – contact our skilled and trusted New York real estate lawyers today and get a free consultation: 800.517.5240