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Questions Real Estate Attorneys are Frequently Asked

By Thomas Wolpert

Tell us a little about yourself and your company:

We are a four-attorney firm outside Philadelphia. We practice in Montgomery County, Chester County, Berks County, Delaware County, Philadelphia and several Pennsylvania counties north and west of Philadelphia. Several attorneys here practice real estate law on a regular basis. We represent home buyers, home sellers, homeowners, commercial owners, landlords, tenants, homeowners associations (HOAs) and condominiums associations, contractors, estates, etc. Collectively, we have many years' experience in real estate law.

What Real Estate Transactions do you typically oversee:

We typically represent clients when there are issues concerning real estate that are out of the ordinary. We solve problems. We also represent estates (of a deceased person) which often have real estate for sale as part of administration of the estate, handled by the executor whom we represent; this real estate often presents special issues, from property repair to insurance to taxes.

What is a list of frequently asked questions from your clients and their answers:

Do I need a lawyer to buy a home? Yes, and no. You can buy a home without a lawyer and people often do. But a home purchase is by far the most costly purchase any person or couple will make, with many years of obligations attached. The assistance of a lawyer at the early stages, for at least a modestly-priced office consultation, may save tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars later, and many, many hours of aggravation and stress. A buyer's realtor may be one good source of advice for any potential buyer, but realtors only get paid if the transaction closes they are very much financially interested in the outcome. In a consultation with us, we have no vested interest in the outcome of any potential purchase we just want what is in your best interest. You should see us before you make a written offer.

Can I sell my home without a realtor? Yes, it is possible, but it is often difficult to generate the buyer interest necessary to get the best offer on a home. Realtors perform a valuable function in listing property on Multiple Listing Service websites, showing properties, steering potential buyers. A lawyer can handle many details, but lawyers do not find buyers. What lawyers do best is solve problems that realtors are not able to resolve.

We have had problems with a contractor. What can we do about it? Often contractor problems come up when someone has bought a home, had it built, or is attempting to have repairs done to list the home for sale. Generally, if a contractor is not responding to you, you should attempt to have another contractor (one you trust) come in and give you an estimate to have the disputed work done correctly. As attorneys, we need to know what the approximate range of the damages is in order to advise you correctly, and if we are going to bring a lawsuit on your behalf, the court needs to know how much you are suing for. An independent contractor's estimate to repair the problem correctly is the best evidence of the financial damages you have sustained.

My Buyer/Seller wants to back out of our Agreement of Sale. Now what? That depends on a lot of very case-specific facts, but generally, the Agreement of Sale specifies what the rights of the parties are in the event of non-performance by either party. We also advise clients what the most practical exit strategy is from a deal which is not working out, which may involve trying to negotiate a settlement or otherwise minimizing the costs involved when a deal doesn't close.

What is the best way to use a real estate lawyer? A real estate lawyer is most useful when we can review the Agreement of Sale before it is signed. The Agreement of Sale is by far the most important legal document. The real estate closing, or settlement, is often rather mechanical all the important decisions/negotiations took place when the Agreement of Sale was signed. So we want to be involved to review that document before you sign it.

Can I buy a home through a short sale or out of foreclosure? Yes you can, and sometimes the money saved can be very considerable. But either short sales or foreclosures are legally complex there are a lot of inter-related moving parts, and you definitely would want the advice and guidance of counsel if that is the road you are going down.

What is the best piece of advice for people searching for a real estate lawyer?

You should obtain lawyers who are experienced, honest, and seek your best interest. Your lawyer should be able to advise both as to your legal rights, but also what are the practical solutions to the problems being presented. Most cases don't go to court. The best lawyers show you how to avoid problems before they begin.

What is the best way to contact our firm?

You can email me at, or call us at 610-792-3304. We maintain evening hours for appointments, have very reasonable fees for initial consultations, and take major credit cards. We also will assist you over the telephone as our schedules permit, if the question you have can be answered without a more extensive office consultation.

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om began his interest in the law as a pro se litigant in 1990, in a dispute over the...

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