Selling our house - do I need an attorney?

We are going to list our house in a few weeks and leaving the USA. We have never sold property in the US before and I’ve seen on various internet sites that it is not essential to have an attorney when closing a sale in New Jersey.

I’m not sure if one is necessary or not? Do most people selling property locally hire an attorney?

Going slightly off topic: We were asked by our realtor to get a survey; this was done this morning and they came back to us with some questions. We don’t seem to have the paperwork and we may have to pay up to $200 extra (on top of the original $725) for the survey company to find the information they say they need (something about easements/commitment).

 We did a refinance on our house a couple of years ago so we phoned the lady at the bank who did the re-fi, in case she had access to the information the survey company is requesting.....and she asked us why we were doing the survey because typically the buyers arrange for a survey themselvesI wish we had known this beforehand and saved ourselves some money. LOL 

a realtor should be handling all this for you. If you aren’t using a realtor, you absolutely need a lawyer. If I had a good realtor and I had a general idea what I was doing and some previous experience (which it sounds like you do not), I might consider no lawyer. With what you’ve described so far, there’s no way I’d forego a lawyer.

Absolutely get a lawyer. Any money you save on the lawyer, you will lose on the deal.

Regardless of whether or not you have a realtor you need an attorney.  No, legally you are not required to have one, but you would be foolish to sell without one.  When we sold our grandmother's house our realtor was excellent, but even she recommend an attorney, and there were certain questions and issues that she advised us were legal questions and that we had to go to our attorney to have them answered/resolved.  

We used Mark Tolstoi in Maplewood.  I highly recommend him.

The survey is normally required by the mortgage company in order for the buyer to obtain one. If you mortgaged the property, the bank should have one that you paid for at the point of closing. The buyer may ask you if you already have a recent survey which they can use.  It saves them money. I wouldn't pay the extra $200 to the survey company. I would wait until you have accepted an offer and have the buyer pay for it. As a former realtor, I'm surprised that your agent would recommend that you get one unless there is something unusual about your property line that may be an issue. I would ask your agent why this was recommended and perhaps ask the realtor to split the cost with you. 

Regarding lawyers....Typically real estate attorneys are used for transactions in our area. For some reason, attorneys are not used in Southern NJ. I would highly recommend having an attorney. People don't realize that the attorney is the one that handles inspection and contract negotiations in our area. Real estate agents are not licensed to practice law or allowed to give legal advice. Once you accept a contract, NJ allows a 3 day attorney review period where both parties can have their lawyers review the contract and make modifications. You do not have to accept the modifications. Either party can walk away without a penalty during that 3 day window.  It will cost you approximately  $1500 and is well worth it since your buyer will most likely have a lawyer on his or her side who will present a list of inspection demands to you. If you do decide to get a lawyer, please be sure to choose one that focuses on real estate rather than a general attorney. I have seen deals fall apart and it's usually caused by delays, miscommunications or misunderstandings between the client, the lawyer and the other party. The attorney needs to understand the timelines associated with the contract. For both of my home transactions in South Orange, I have personally used Jeffrey Dollinger in Livingston. I highly recommend him. Good luck with your sale.

Having a lawyer for a closing may not be required but it is highly recommended.  I believe it is standard for lawyers to charge a flat fee for a residential closing.  The fee will vary depending on the lawyer you choose, but it is usually not that expensive.  

I don't know your financial situation, but for most people a house is their largest investment.  Do you want to risk losing part of your investment just to save a couple of dollars?  

If you had an attorney, they would have told you the buyer usually gets the survey which would have saved you $725.00.  You already ran in to a problem with the survey company regarding a possible easement, why take a chance of running in to another problem that may cost you money you didn't need to spend. 

I had an attorney when I sold and when I bought.  I used Irwin Semmel on Highland Pl.  I would recommend him to anyone doing a real estate transaction.  The only issue with him is that he doesn't believe in email communications.  I think every realtor in Maplewood and South Orange is familiar with him and most of them probably had a transaction with him representing the buyer or seller.  When I sold my last house he caught something my realtor missed which would have cost me several thousands of dollars. 

I put my house on the market last year for a brief period of time to try and gauge what kind of money I could get for it.  Before I did anything I called Irwin and advised him that I was putting it on the market and I would need his services once again.  He told me to call if I had any questions even before the closing.  I did not sell, but I did call him a few times with some questions during the time it was on the market.  He answered all my questions, gave me advice on how to handle a potential buyer and didn't charge me a dime since I never sold it.

Lawyer in your pocket is a wise decision.   Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.

blackcat said:
Irwin is the man

Irwin ran circles around my attorney. I recommend him.

Wow - fantastic advice from everyone! 

Happy to tell you that a couple of hours ago we called Irwin and he was able to see us today. We have just left his office; very impressed with his knowledge and experience and we will be using him for our real estate attorney review. 

Thank you so much for the recommendations, it’s very much appreciated.

I'm late but one more vote for Irwin.

Best Regards,

Ron Carter

Irwin is great but the whole refusal to use email thing is just plain ridiclous. 

"No email" is part of the Irwin package, along with the little funky office and the folding chairs (unless he's moved since our sale).  You're not hiring him for IT or decor, you're hiring him for experienced, timely advice, and he'll give you that in spades, as many have noted above.

And yes, sometimes it was inconvenient to run to his office with papers, but oh well.

well, asking him to perform IT work is a far cry from asking him to use a very standard method of communication. I could care less about decor.  I agree he’s great but I didn’t use him for my second home purchase for one reason- it was completely inconvenient for me, mortgage lender, realtor, etc to use a lawyer that refused to send messages and documents via email.

In some states it is not customary to have an attorney for most residential real estate sales, but in New Jersey (at least in this part of the state) it is absolutely the norm.  And, especially since you do not have experience in this area, you should have one, not matter how good your realtor is.

Glad to hear you went with Irwin.  You will not be disappointed.  Good luck selling.


conandrob240 said:
well, asking him to perform IT work is a far cry from asking him to use a very standard method of communication. I could care less about decor.  I agree he’s great but I didn’t use him for my second home purchase for one reason- it was completely inconvenient for me, mortgage lender, realtor, etc to use a lawyer that refused to send messages and documents via email.

 ^ this for sure. Hello, it’s 2019! 

I’m a mortgage professional and EVERYTHING we do now for the home purchase process (or refinance) is done electronically. If you can’t get on board with that, you won’t last. 

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