The short answer is that an attorney’s services are not required to buy or sell a house in Michigan. But before you heave a sigh of relief at not having to pay an attorney’s fee, consider some very good reasons why you might want to have an attorney involved in the purchase or sale of your home.
Let’s start with this: for most people, buying or selling a house is the biggest legal and financial transaction in which they’ll ever participate. Most people are represented by real estate agents, who likely have some familiarity with the law, but do not actually practice it. They are not in a position, professionally speaking, to offer you legal advice on the most important legal transaction of your life.
What Can an Attorney Do for Me in a Real Estate Purchase?
Since you are not legally required to have an attorney for a Michigan real estate transaction, you should do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it would nevertheless be a good idea to have an attorney’s guidance. If something goes wrong with the sale, it could cost you many thousands of dollars. An attorney’s fee to review your contract, title insurance, closing documents and deed is probably minimal compared to the risk of something going wrong with the sale, or your unwittingly agreeing to terms that are detrimental to you.
You should consider hiring an attorney for your real estate transaction if any of the following are true:
- You don’t understand every term of the real estate contract;
- You want any terms in the contract that vary from the standard real estate contract;
- You are purchasing real estate in foreclosure;
- You are purchasing real estate that is in probate:
- You are purchasing or selling the house using a land contract;
- You are purchasing or selling real estate with a non-family member, such as a boyfriend or girlfriend;
- The sale involves a seller-financed mortgage;
- The purchase or sale is unusually complicated;
- The property involved is subject to a homeowners association (HOA)
- You don’t fully trust the other parties to the sale.
In Michigan, home purchases involving a mortgage are required to have title insurance. Title insurance is intended to protect your interest in real property against loss, primarily due to liens or title defects. There may be exceptions to this coverage, such as third-party rights to use or access part of your property. An attorney, unlike a real estate agent, will identify and explain these exceptions to you.
What Will the Help of a Real Estate Attorney Cost Me?
Some attorneys charge a flat fee for services involved in the review of a purchase or sale of real estate, but most charge an hourly rate. When interviewing an attorney for your real estate matter, you should inquire about hourly rate, and ask about how many hours he or she expects to need. (Of course, if unforeseen complications arise, your expenses could be more than the estimate—but in that case, you’ll probably be extra glad that you have an attorney.)
To learn more about purchasing or selling real estate in Michigan, talk to an experienced Oakland County real estate attorney to learn more about what to be aware of when buying or selling a home. Attorney Jim Hubbert has helped numerous Michigan buyers and sellers of residential property successfully negotiate and close their real estate transactions.