Strictly speaking, Illinois law doesn’t require an attorney to be involved in the closing process on a property transaction.

But, with that said? Ask anyone who’s successfully bought or sold real estate in or around Chicago, and you’re likely to hear that their real estate attorney was one of the most important parts of their team, taking on everyday responsibilities both large and small.

As many real estate professionals would tell you, hiring an attorney, while not technically  required, is all but de rigeur. The vast majority of home purchasers and sellers are going to end up being represented by an attorney during the process. It just makes sense. It’s like getting popcorn at the movies. Sure, you don’t have to have it – but getting some will definitely make the entire experience better overall.

After all, buying or selling a house, condo, or land is a complicated process – and that’s when everything goes off without a hitch. Bringing on an attorney is a crucial step to take, and one that will typically make the process go more smoothly; save you time and effort; and help ensure that the final deal is fair, legal, and as lucrative as possible.

But still, for a lot of people, the question remains: What makes bringing on a real estate attorney so important? What will he or she actually do?

Let’s look at five common responsibilities your Illinois real estate attorney will take on during the purchase or sale of a home:

Conducting Title Searches and Examinations

Real estate attorneys will help conduct a title search, which is a process that verifies that the seller has a clear title on the home, meaning that it’s ready to transfer to the purchaser.

This process will involve identifying any mortgages, liens, and judgments on the property that need to be addressed. If there are any obstacles that arise, attorneys can help work with the title company in order to ensure that the problems are resolved properly.

Once title search and examination have been completed, real estate attorneys also help to order title insurance, a vital step for protecting the buyer and their lender from future title issues. A real estate attorney will also be responsible for ordering a plat of survey for single family homes or fee simple townhomes (i.e., in cases where the property is not a condo), as well as a number of other major and minor tasks.

Assisting With Financial Matters

Your real estate attorney can also be an invaluable partner when it comes to understanding and handling many of the financial aspects of your real estate transaction. For instance, attorneys may assist with the proration of property taxes and help you get a handle on condominium/homeowners assessments.

In some cases, an attorney may also take responsibility for holding onto “earnest money,” or the buyer’s good faith payments that show their commitment to the purchase. This isn’t necessarily the most common practice, though, and it is often the listing broker who will end up holding onto the initial and balance of earnest money.

Reviewing Documents and Leading Negotiations

Think of the many parties involved in the sale of a home: Buyers, sellers, and lenders, sure, but also surveyors, insurance companies, inspectors, contractors, local tax officials, attorneys. The list could go on!

It takes a village to sell a home – and, in many cases, it is a real estate attorney who helps set up and coordinate lines of communication between their clients and all of these relevant parties. There are a lot of balls to juggle, and attorneys will often take charge when it comes to keeping every consideration under control as the process goes on.

At the same time, attorneys are vital partners when it comes to reviewing all contracts, paperwork, and other documents that can be hard (if not impossible) to parse all alone. During the attorney review period, legal representatives for the seller and the purchaser may review and negotiate all sorts of items, including contract changes, remedy requests, and more.

Basically? An attorney can be your eyes and ears for all things having to do with contracts and documentation. They can serve as “point person,” digging through the fine print and communicating with relevant parties so that you don’t have to constantly sweat the small stuff on your own.

Coordinating Closing

Generally speaking, attorneys will also calculate a closing statement, and will assume responsibility for scheduling closing meetings, including the date, time, and location of closing. In addition, they will be responsible for thoroughly communicating all of the final details of the closing to their clients, including matters relating to cash flow, closing costs, and more.

At the closing table, the buyer’s attorney will help walk their client through the final aspects of the paperwork, helping to explain documents including deeds, notes, settlement statements, loan documents, and so on.

The seller’s attorney will also, generally speaking, be present at closing. In many cases, the seller’s attorney will represent their client, who they may have had pre-sign relevant paperwork and grant limited power of attorney, helping make things go more smoothly at the final meeting.

Handling Records and Disbursements

At the close of the process, it will be the attorney’s job to finalize the transaction, and subsequently disburse monies to all parties. Fees and sums may include brokerage fees, local taxes, insurance premiums, mortgage broker fees, attorney’s fees, and, of course, the seller’s proceeds from the sale.

During this time, attorneys will also ensure that the title has been updated and that the deed/deed of trust is recorded.  

The Bottom Line?

In the end, it’s important not to overlook the many tasks that a real estate attorney will take on – and the breadth of knowledge and experience that they can bring to the table.

Whether you’re a buyer or seller, an attorney is a critical partner to have on your side, one who can assist with the mountains of paperwork and countless negotiations that are part and parcel of real estate transactions. What’s more, the right attorney will bring a working knowledge of local law, taxes, and more, helping ensure that you get the fairest deal possible.

Ready to find out more? The attorneys and staff of The Gunderson Law Firm specialize in helping individuals and businesses in the State of Illinois with real estate transactions insightfully, promptly, and professionally. Our team can assist in matters of:

  • Residential Real Estate
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Purchases and Sales
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Title Insurance
  • Title Examinations & Disputes
  • Condominium Law
  • Property Development
  • Foreclosures

Drop us a line to arrange your free initial consultation.