When you are purchasing a new home or piece of land in Florida, it’s a good idea as a real estate buyer to have a lawyer helping you. Your goal as a homebuyer is to get what you paid for. Real estate is kind of complicated and having a lawyer to look out for your interests is a good thing. Your lawyer will help prepare and negotiate a purchase contract, help you through the buyer’s due diligence inspection period, and then review deed, title insurance commitment and other closing documents your behalf.
The real estate buyer’s lawyer can do the following:
- Assistance during the Due Diligence Inspection Period. The due diligence period in a real estate contract is defined as a buyer’s obligation to thoroughly investigate a property within a specified time to determine whether the buyer remains satisfied with the property before finalizing the purchase. A lawyer can assist you in preparing and negotiating a contract for purchase of the real property that includes a due diligence inspection period with broad wording to allow you to check for obvious (patent) and non-obvious (latent) defects. These might be in the building, land, air or water. They could be environmental, structural, mechanical, electrical, or otherwise. There is an ancient Latin saying, Caveat Emptor, which means “Let the buyer beware.” This mean that the seller was not obligated to tell the buyer about defects known by the seller. With regard to residential real estate, this ancient rule no longer applies. However, it still applies in Florida to commercial real estate, so it is even more important for commercial real property buyers to do their due diligence inspections. As a residential homebuyer, it is still important to inspect because sellers are not obligated to tell you about defects they are not aware of; you may discover something they didn’t catch.
- Drafting a Clear Contract. A real estate lawyer can assist in drafting a clear contract that states what you, the buyer expects to buy in the transaction. Sometimes this is done with a standard form such as the FAR/Bar form issued by the Florida Bar and Florida Association of Realtors or the FAR forms issued by the Florida Association of Realtors. Often, a lawyer will prepare addenda to these standard forms to clarify aspects of the transaction. Sometimes, however, the lawyer prepares a form specifically for the particular transaction rather than using a standard form that has many provisions that are not applicable to the particular case.
- Follow-up on Deadlines. All contracts for the purchase of real property should include deadlines for such matters as inspections, financing, title insurance, surveys, closing, etc. To avoid breaching the contract, it is important to comply with these deadlines. A lawyer can assist you in meeting contract deadlines.
- Reviewing Closing Documents. Legal documents can be written to include representations and warranties that are binding upon sellers after the closing, in a way that may obligate them to pay damages to the buyer even years after the closing. Sellers may try to avoid using this wording so that any discovered defects are buyer’s sole problems. Without an attorney you may not have the benefit of including this wording in the contract, deed and other documents. Since the seller’s goals are to get paid and avoid litigation, it is important to include seller’s representations and warranties in contracts and deeds. Lawyers know which warranties and representations are standard and which are not and which can be negotiated.
- Cost-Benefit of Legal Advice. The benefits of having a lawyer come at a cost: legal fees. Buyers who do not have lawyers do not pay legal fees; at least, not unless or until a breach or defect is discovered. Legal fees in litigation are expensive because it is fueled by opposing parties with opposing claims and positions. Legal fees you may pay to a lawyer to advise you before signing a contract to purchase and before closing on the contract are much less than legal fees you may pay in litigation. It is best to hire a lawyer to assist in assessing and minimizing the risks of the purchase transaction to the extent possible.
Therefore, as a buyer of Florida real estate, whether it is residential or commercial, you should always engage a real estate lawyer to assist you in the transaction. That way you have someone legally on your side.