In Illinois, it is customary to have a lawyer represent you if you are buying or selling a house. Many people wonder at what point in time they need legal representation in the real estate closing process. The answer is usually sooner than you think.
The attorney review period in most residential real estate contracts used in the Chicago area is only five days
Do not wait to hire a real estate lawyer! It’s not a bad idea to hire an attorney as soon as you know that you are going to be selling your house or buying one. At the very, very latest, you should be hiring your attorney within 24 hours of signing acceptance on your contract (‘the offer’) with a buyer or seller. Most (but not all) contracts will only give five days for attorney review. During this very short window, your attorney should review and discuss all terms of the contract with you. It is only during the attorney review period that changes can be made. The only thing that the attorney cannot renegotiate is the purchase price. It is customary and expected during this time for the buyer’s attorney to send out a letter with a list of suggested “attorney review” modifications.
Other reasons to hire a real estate attorney early on
Aside from the short attorney review period, below are more reasons to involve your attorney as soon as possible:
- To inform you of your rights and obligations under the legally binding contract that you just signed
- To answer your questions and give you legal advice
- To receive and reply to the attorney review letter that the other party sends out
- To raise any red flags that you might not have been aware of
- To make sure that the process is proceeding on the right track
- If you are the buyer, to discuss your rights under the Inspection clause of the contract
- If you are the buyer, to initiate & complete negotiations regarding the property inspection
- If you are the buyer, to protect your earnest money from surrender if the deal falls apart
- If you are the seller, to discuss your options having received an inspection repair request
- If you are the seller, to respond in writing to the inspection repair request
- Occasionally, to hold earnest money if the Realtors’ brokerages cannot hold it
- To cancel the contract in the first five days if you change your mind
- If you are the seller, your lawyer should order the title search right away to ensure that the closing date is met.
The above will all happen in the first five to ten days after going under contract. There is still much more work to be done by both lawyers after that time frame. As you can now understand, there is no reason to wait. And remember, your Realtor is not a licensed attorney and cannot perform most of the tasks listed above.
It is likely that you will have legal questions even before your house is under contract, and since you are paying a flat fee (no hourly charges here), you may as well hire a lawyer as early on in the process as possible.
If you are going to be buying or selling a home in the Chicago area, feel free to call me at 630 250-8813 with no obligation on your part. I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have about the home selling or buying experience – as you get ready to start the process of a real estate closing.