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REAL ESTATE LAW   KEEPING EVERYONE INFORMED  By: Jerry A. Casser, Esq. Published in “Broker-Agent Magazine” – April, 2008By: Jerry A. Casser, Esq.
Originally Published in “Broker-Agent Magazine” – April, 2008

The primary responsibility of the real estate attorney is to keep everyone informed throughout the transaction. That includes the clients, the realtors (both of them), and the other attorney. The purchase of a home, especially the first, is one of the most important transactions that people will become involved in during the course of their lives. They will invest money, time, energy, emotions, and deserve to know what they can expect throughout the transaction, and most importantly, should know what is happening each step of the way.
I represent sellers and purchasers in real estate transactions, but the majority of my real estate practice involves the representation of purchasers, so that is what I will concentrate on in this discussion. My initial contact in a real estate transaction is usually the purchaser’s realtor. While my own clients do buy and sell homes, the bulk of my real estate practice is based upon referrals from realtors that I have become acquainted with during real estate transactions.
Normally, I receive a telephone call from a realtor asking if I would be willing to assist a prospective client with a real estate purchase. When I agree, the realtor then faxes to me a copy of the signed Contract along with contact information for his/her customers. After reading the Contract over carefully, I note the most important details and then call the new clients to introduce myself. I also give them a crash course on their anticipated purchase.
First, I provide all of my contact information, including telephone and fax numbers, cell number for evening and weekend calls and, most importantly, my email address for those late evening and weekend questions when my clients do not wish to disturb me with a telephone call.

Review Contract in Detail

We then go over the Contract in detail and I explain to them the types of changes that we should consider making during attorney review. We also discuss the timing of the deposit payments, the process of applying for a mortgage and obtaining a home inspection, the type and amount of insurance that will be required, the cash requirements for closing, and the time frame for each step of the transaction. In that way the purchasers can draw up a timeline for the entire transaction.
The next step is to draft the attorney review letter. What I try to do in order to move the transaction along in an expeditious manner is to fax or email the draft to my clients for review, questions and approval. Then I send it out to the sellers’ attorney by fax to expedite the review process and by regular mail, with a copy to both realtors so that they are kept in the loop and understand that the purchasers are moving forward to make the deal happen. More times than not, the review letter will be approved within hours (sometimes within the hour) and we can move on to the next step.

Home Inspectors

I choose not to recommend particular home inspectors, since that is an area that creates the most problems for the purchaser. Some inspectors are more thorough than others, but raise issues not normally dealt with in the give and take negotiations between the parties to the purchase and sale. Invariably, the purchasers will find out about additional items once the purchase has closed and they have moved in, and they begin looking at whom to place at fault for the failure to see something that may not have been mentioned in an inspection report. In any event, the realtors generally know who is considered to be good and reliable as an inspector and I leave the selection to my clients and the clients’ realtor.
I routinely ask for a copy of the Inspection Report to be emailed or faxed to me as soon as it is available, at which time I do a thorough review, prepare a preliminary list of what I deem to be items of concern and then suggest to my clients that they review the Report and make up their own list which I will cross-check against mine. I do this to make sure that my clients have not overlooked something that may be very important, and also try to make sure that they do not go overboard and kill a deal by asking for the moon.
When we have agreed on a repair list (or wish list), I fax or email it to my clients and their realtor for comments before sending it out, and again send it by fax and regular mail to the sellers’ attorney, as well as both realtors and my clients. In this way, there will be no miscommunication, and both realtors can then assist their respective customers in negotiating any issues that the attorneys cannot resolve themselves.
Since the realtor is more involved in the mortgage process than the attorney, I try to keep in touch with my clients’ realtor and my clients to see how we are progressing with the mortgage commitment. Once the commitment is issued, I share that information with the sellers’ attorney so that he can inform the sellers (relieving their anxiety) and the sellers’ realtor.
I then try to confirm a date and time for closing well enough in advance so that we should be able to avoid conflicts in the purchasers’ and the sellers’ schedules, as well as the sellers’ attorney’s schedule. That also allows the realtors to mark the closing on their calendars as well. We then try to determine as closely as possible what the purchasers’ cash needs will be, and advise the form of payment needed at closing. All that’s left is the closing which we try to make as pleasant as possible for all concerned so that our clients end up with that special house, we end up with satisfied clients, and both realtors love us enough to refer future business.