Consumer Alerts

Buying a Home? Refinancing?

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO A LAWYER!

This phrase is often used in another context, but is important when you are making the most important decision in your life - the decision to buy a home of your own.

There are some who would say, “You don’t need a lawyer.” Whenever someone tells you that, you should think carefully - and in this case, you should choose to have a lawyer. A lawyer has a professional obligation - to represent your interests exclusively. This is not true of the other professionals who may be involved with the transaction. The mortgage lender is trying to make business more profitable for its shareholders. The realtor may actually represent the seller. Don’t let them decide whether you need a lawyer for your purchase - decide for yourself.

There are some who would say, “Lawyers are too expensive.” Most real estate lawyers in Lycoming County provide title insurance - and the premiums for title insurance are set by the state. It costs no more and no less to get a title insurance policy from a non-lawyer than it does from a lawyer. If someone tells you it will be cheaper - call and get quotes. Ask for the quote in writing, and be sure that you are getting quotes for the same level of service. Then make a decision based on your comparison. Sometimes, using a lawyer actually costs less. If your lender will accept a “certificate of title,” this is a document that can only be provided by a lawyer, and is often less expensive than title insurance.

You need to determine if there are “title problems” before you accept a deed. These include easements, tax liens, municipal liens, judgment liens, oil and gas leases, and a host of other documents that may be filed in the county courthouse. Sound confusing? It is. Lawyers have years of training to help them understand these issues, and help you decide whether you should say “No” before you get to a closing. Even before you order a title search, you should go over your contract with a lawyer, before you sign it, to make sure there is nothing in it you might regret later.

If you don’t have a lawyer, visit the Lycoming Law Association's attorney directory, check the yellow pages,  or call the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s referral service (1-800-692-7375). Also, ask your friends and neighbors to refer you to a lawyer they used. You’ll find it’s worth the effort.

Sponsored by the Lycoming Law Association Real Estate Committee.