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Do I need an attorney before I purchase a house?
No, there is no law that mandates the employment of an attorney, however, an attorney experienced in real estate issues can be a valuable resource saving more money than any extra cost. In most circumstances, a real estate attorney as a settlement agent is competitive in pricing.
How can an attorney save me money?
Certainly, an attorney does not operate like a bank to save you money by depositing money. A lawyer can save a client money by reviewing the circumstances and documents for potential problems down the road. By identifying problems and providing solutions upfront, an attorney can save time and money before a problem has time to grow in size.
What type of issues does an attorney assist with?
Although a buyer is represented by a real estate agent and an attorney at the same time, the focus of each representative is different. A real estate agent's main focus is on identifying the client's real estate needs and desires then matching those needs and desires with what is available on the market. Incidental to an agent's real estate license is the ability to provide limited negotiating and drafting in regards to real estate contracts. An attorney can review the Promissory Note and explain the defenses a buyer may have or is waiving. An Attorney can review the Deed and explain easements and covenants. Most importantly, no real estate agent, who is not a practicing lawyer, can inform you of any remedies by the subsequent breach of either party or explain how the issues will proceed at court. You need an attorney to give such advice. Obtaining that advice in the beginning and allowing the attorney to review the documents and circumstances may prevent or limit substantial litigation based on the attorney's experience.
I own property as a Joint Tenant. What does that mean?
Ownership as a Joint Tenant in Virginia without the Common Law Right of Survivorship is no different from owning the property as a Tenants in Common. Owning property as Joint Tenants with the Common Law Right of Survivorship means that the owners are united in Time, Title, Possession and Interest so that upon the death of one of the Joint Tenants, the surviving tenant(s) gain the decedent tenant's interest.
I own my property as Tenants in Common with a friend, can I sell my interest in the property without my friend's consent?
Yes, as a Tenant in Common your interest is alienable and devisable. Alienable means that you may offer the property for sale to another. Devisable means that your interest in the property can be conveyed after your death by a Last Will and Testament or the property may pass by operation of law to your heirs at law. However, if you have entered into a contract with your friend, then you may be subject to a partnership agreement restricting your ability to sell the property.
My mother owns our childhood home as Joint Tenants with the Common Law Right of Survivorship with my brother, she has since passed away, do I have an interest in the property?
No. Your brother by operation of law is the owner of the real estate.
My mother transferred her property to herself and my sister as Joint Tenants with the Common Law Right of Survivorship, with the precise understanding that my sister, upon my mother's death, would transfer my share of the house to me, is this legal?
Yes and No. Your mother gave your sister an interest in the real estate. The interest is a gift if your sister did not give fair market value for the interest. Your sister's interest is that she will own one hundred percent of the property by operation of law if your mother predeceases her. Your mother's plan is relying on the goodwill of your sister to follow through with her direction, and without other affirmative written declaration, you may not have any recourse if she does not follow your mother's desire.