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Insider Advice on Buying Your Home: An Interview with Chase Payne of Payne Law Firm

By Chase Payne

Tell us a little bit about your experience, firm's history and the areas of law that you practice.

Payne Law Firm, LLC was founded November 1, 2011 by M. Chase Payne of Daniel Island, SC. The firm's primary areas of practice include residential closing transactions, foreclosure defense and personal injury law.

What are the main advantages of working with a real estate lawyer when you're buying or selling a home (or residential property)?

Real estate attorneys whom primarily practice in the real estate arena have seen almost every type of problem that could go wrong with a transaction. The exposure to these situations allows them to guide inexperienced purchasers or sellers from falling victim to the same pitfalls as well as handle volatile situations with a little more practicality. The real estate purchasing and selling process can be a highly emotional time for either side, especially new home buyers. When experienced attorneys represent their clients properly it can help ease some of the anxiety that is present and resolve some of the issues that are really a lot smaller than perceived. Real estate attorneys are also a great source of information for guiding real estate agents in representing their clients properly.

What is a lawyer's role in a typical purchase and sales agreement, and how long does the process usually take from start to finish?

Typically, a buyer and seller have already ratified a contract by the time an attorney receives it. The most prudent buyer or seller would have an attorney review the contract prior to signing, but that often is not the case. Upon receipt of a contract, an attorney will review to verify closing dates, inspection periods, and any addendums to the contract. Buyers' attorneys will examine title to make sure that their client is going to receive insurable or marketable title. Once a buyer has their funding in place, all inspections have occurred and the title is verified as clean, then the closing can occur. While this seems like a relatively easy process, almost every deal will have some type of obstacle that must be navigated. The time frame for a transaction to close is greatly dependent upon whether the purchaser is using their own funds or borrowing funds from a lender. A cash closing typically takes anywhere from 3 to 14 days depending on how quickly the parties wish to close. If the purchaser is going to borrow the funds, 30 to 45 days is a reasonable time frame in today's local market.

What, if anything, can a buyer do to help make sure the sale goes smoothly?

There is no magic answer or fail-proof formula a buyer can adhere to in making sure that a transaction goes smoothly. The reality is, real estate transactions oftentimes hit road blocks from unforeseen issues occurring out of the control of a buyer or seller. However, the following six suggestions will help limit problems and go a long way to insure that a closing proceeds as smoothly as possible:

1. Make sure that you are represented by an experienced realtor who can competently answer questions you might have about the purchase process;
2. Make sure that you use an experienced real estate attorney that practices primarily in this area. The practice of real estate law is a complex art that contains many cogs in the wheel. You want to insure that your attorney is knowledgeable on what each step of the process includes and that he or she is able to move the process along in a professional manner;
3. Go into this experience with the correct mindset, i.e. this is an arduous process that will take time to complete. Expect a heavy load of paperwork on the front-end, especially if you are self-employed or attempting to get a specialized type of loan. Responding back quickly with document requests makes everyone's life easier and reduces anxiety when looking towards the finish line;
4. Make sure that you properly negotiate the terms, conditions and timelines of your real estate purchase agreement. I would highly suggest consulting with an attorney prior to signing a contract. The review of the contract is typically included in most real estate attorneys' fee structures and it generally will not cause the buyer to incur additional fees for an attorney to review their contract.
5. Make sure that all of the individuals and businesses you utilize during the purchase process are local to the area in which you are looking to purchase. Not only will local knowledge of the area insure that you are getting quality services, but typically businesses that are not operating on a national scale will be more responsive to inquiries and will have more of a personal investment in making sure their client's transaction gets completed in satisfactory manner.
6. Make sure that a buyer has been pre-approved for financing and that they can comfortably provide the funds necessary to close. The lending process is the most difficult portion of a real estate transaction and it goes without saying that a failure in this department means an overall failure of the transaction.

What are some of the top things that you've seen go wrong during the purchase and sale process?

The perception of something going wrong in a real estate transaction is very subjective. Obviously, all parties would agree that a failure for the transaction to close would be categorized as "something went wrong". However, sometimes the "something went wrong" stigma is instigated by a failure to look at the big picture and getting wrapped up in trivial matters. This type of experience can be limited by making sure a buyer or seller adheres to the following tips:

1. Never put down a large earnest money deposit unless you absolutely have all of the cash on hand to purchase the property. "Having all of the cash on hand" does not mean that you have an approval letter from your lender. The contract price is what speaks volumes in these transactions and accompanying an offer with a two or three thousand dollar earnest money deposit is sufficient to illustrate that a buyer is serious. If something unforeseen goes wrong with the transaction, this will prevent a buyer from losing an enormous amount of money if contingencies are not properly in place. It will also prevent the seller from trying to unfairly take advantage of a buyer by intentionally killing a deal to keep the earnest money deposit.
2. Always make sure that a buyer or seller has reasonable contingencies in place that protect them from known or unknown circumstances that could prevent a transaction from closing. If you are making an offer based on financing, always have a contingency in the event that your financing does not come through.
3. Make sure that a buyer or seller has reasonable timelines and expiration dates to have all inspections completed and other time sensitive issues completed. Half of the battle with a real estate transaction is managing expectations on both sides. If either side expects for events to happen to quickly then it will make the entire deal seem like "something went wrong" when in reality, the expectations were never correct to start with.
4. Always operate under the notion that the buyer wants to buy and the seller wants to sell. When closings get delayed and deals start getting rocky, the buyer or seller will often become concerned that one side is trying to take advantage of the other. While there are some instances when this may occur, the majority of buyers and sellers wish to move forward with a deal as expediently as possible. Keeping this notion in mind will help both parties reduce anxiety and move towards the finish line.

What's the best way for people to reach you and your firm?

Payne Law Firm, LLC has offices located in Daniel Island, Mount Pleasant and Summerville South Carolina. Our website is www.paynelawoffice.com and email contact is info@paynelawoffice.com. For immediate questions or assistance you can call us at (843) 606-5700.

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