While there is no legal requirement to retain an attorney to buy a house in Tennessee, it is nevertheless prudent. Buying a home is a huge investment and expense, and the process involves complex contract language and specific legal requirements that can benefit from a lawyer’s involvement. Purchasing a house is not like buying a new pair of shoes; a lot is on the line. Wondering, Can you buy a house without a lawyer? This blog will discuss Tennessee’s home purchasing requirements, why you should consult an attorney, and how they can assist you.
Why Do You Need a Lawyer for a Residential Real Estate Transaction?
Lawyers can be beneficial in many ways in the residential real estate process. They can assist and expedite many steps along the way, and they can help you avoid costly mistakes.
Negotiating, Drafting, and Reviewing Contracts
Most notably, lawyers can assist with all aspects of the required legal contracts that come with buying a house. Lawyers can review proposed contracts by the seller to ensure your rights are adequately protected. They can also draft contracts and negotiate the terms. While it is possible to negotiate, review, and draft contracts on your own, we always recommend having an attorney assist you.
Often, self-represented buyers will draft their own contracts using standard forms. These forms can fall short of protecting their rights because they are generic and do not address unique and specific circumstances. Your attorney will protect your rights in light of exceptional or unusual conditions.
Review Other Important Documents
While contracts are an integral part of buying a house, there are other legal documents that an attorney should review. These documents can include title reports, deed restrictions, mortgage commitment documents, and more. Your attorney can explain what each means and how it might affect your purchase.
Advise You of Legal Rights and Obligations
An attorney is crucial to advise you of your legal rights and obligations. Your lawyer can spot if the seller is taking unfair advantage of you, unreasonable contingencies and demands, and potential risks. Once you adequately and thoroughly understand what is on the table, you can make a fully informed decision to buy the house. If questions or problems arise, your attorney is a phone call away.
Importantly, your attorney will attend your closing to ensure all documents are as agreed to before you sign off on them.
Specific Examples of Circumstances Needing a Lawyer
While we always advise consulting legal counsel when purchasing a home, there are several specific instances where buying a house without a lawyer is particularly unwise.
Some examples of when legal representation can be beneficial include:
- Purchasing a foreclosure, short sale, or estate sale property;
- Purchasing a house with potential environmental problems (e.g., mold or radon);
- Buying a home in another state;
- Home shopping without a real estate agent or broker;
- Buying a home with significant renovations that the seller did not get permits for;
- Purchasing a lot of land;
- Entering into a rent-to-own contract;
- Planning to use the house for commercial or business purposes; or
- Buying the home with the intention to use it as a rental property.
Remember this list is not exhaustive, and there may be other unique considerations that you should consult with an attorney regarding. Many residential real estate purchases include addendums and provisions about extended deadlines, required seller repairs, and rent-to-seller conditions.
Are Other Professionals Necessary to Buying a Home?
The home buying process is complex and involves multiple steps, at least two interested parties, and a handful of professionals to assist with certain parts of the process. An attorney is just one of the professionals you should engage in the process.
Real Estate Agent
Tennessee law does not require that you have a real estate agent or broker to purchase a home, but you can absolutely benefit from their assistance. Among other things, real estate agents can aid in determining if the price of the house is fair and reasonable.
Accountant or Mortgage Broker
When searching for a home, your accountant or mortgage broker can help determine what you can afford. It would be unwise and a waste of time to pursue homes outside of your budget. These professionals may also assist you in determining any tax implications.
During the home buying process, another essential professional service is a home inspector. A home inspection is crucial when buying a home and is often required by the mortgage lender. An inspector can spot any hidden defects in the house that could be costly to a new buyer.
Lastly, you want to ensure the home you are buying has a clear and clean title free of any liens. A title company will search the proposed property to ensure the home and property have a good title.
It is vital to hire these professionals in addition to your attorney. If you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of locating and engaging all of these individuals, don’t fret. We can access that too.
Are You Also Selling Property?
Perhaps you are looking to sell and buy Tennessee property simultaneously; you may wonder, Can you sell land without a lawyer? The answer remains the same. Tennessee law does not require that you have a lawyer to sell your property, but we strongly recommend it.
How to Find a Real Estate Lawyer in Tennessee
The thought of trying to find a real estate lawyer can feel overwhelming and send you into anxiety and unnecessary stress. Below we discuss five tips for finding a reputable real estate lawyer in Tennessee.
Ask Friends and Family for a Referral
Speaking with your closest friends and family is one of the best resources for finding a reputable attorney. Many of your closest relatives have probably been through the home-buying process, and they can offer valuable attorney recommendations. Perhaps someone you know had an excellent experience with a Tennessee real estate lawyer in the past and can recommend them to you. On the other hand, they can also advise you on who to steer clear of if they had a less-than-pleasant experience. Before looking further, draw on the people closest to you.
Contact the Bar Association
Contacting an attorney bar association can provide helpful information for finding the right lawyer. Attorneys often join bar associations to sign up for referral lists. They can help you get referred to a real estate attorney focusing on buyer needs. The Tennessee Bar Association Real Estate Section can steer you in the right direction. You may also find it helpful to refer to more local bar associations depending on your location; most major cities have one.
Research Potential Lawyers Online
Most businesses in 2023, including lawyers, typically have an online presence. Researching law firms or individual lawyers online can provide valuable insight into their achievements, areas of practice, geographic focus, and more. You can often learn about success stories and read client reviews to help narrow your search. While checking attorney and law firm profiles online is a valuable tool, we do not recommend relying solely on the internet as your guide but rather using it in conjunction with our other tips for finding a lawyer.
Interview Prospective Lawyers
Once you have narrowed your list of potential candidates, schedule a phone or in-person consultation. While one of the primary purposes of initial consultations is for the attorney to learn about you, your situation, and your needs, it is also an opportunity to ask questions and determine if this particular attorney can be the right fit for you.
Ask About Availability and Scheduling
Real estate cases can be complex, and scheduling closing dates requires coordinating several parties’ schedules. It is crucial to ensure the particular lawyer you choose has ample time in their schedule to take on your case.
How to Select the Right Lawyer for Your Needs
After following these tips, you may still have several potential candidates. Lawyers you meet with may be very knowledgeable, kind, and experienced, but their focus lies in a particular real estate niche that does not apply to your current needs. If you are purchasing a residential condo, an attorney with decades of exclusive commercial seller experience might not be the right lawyer for your situation. Most importantly, trust your gut. If you get the sense that this is not the right lawyer for you, then trust that instinct.
Tennessee Real Estate Attorneys
Buying a house is one of the most critical decisions in your life. You shouldn’t take a chance and go it alone. Missing necessities in the contract, overlooking mistakes and errors, and skipping vital steps in the process can quickly become detrimental and costly mistakes. Hiring a real estate attorney will ensure your rights are protected every step of the way. Contact Batson Nolan for advice, guidance, and representation when in doubt. We will not steer you wrong. Contact us at your convenience to schedule a consultation.