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Real Answers

October 02, 1994

Q.: I am a first-time home buyer. Do I need a real estate attorney?

A.: Not unless the transaction is out of the ordinary or otherwise expected to be difficult. The vast majority of people buying a home in California do not use a real estate attorney.

Most home buyers are capable of handling routine real estate purchase contracts as long as precautions are taken.

"They should definitely make sure they understand every single term of the contract. Every contract is different, even though they're on pre-printed forms," said Marc Weissman, of Weiss & Weissman in San Francisco, adding that buyers should closely study the contingency clauses that allow them to back out if they cannot obtain financing or an inspection turns up problems.

Hiring an attorney after a conflict erupts may be too late. Lawsuits are costly and time-consuming, so, Weissman advises, "People who anticipate a problem should stay out of the transaction altogether."

Ilyce Glink, author of "100 Questions Every First-Time Homebuyer Should Ask," (Times Books, Random House, 1994), says buyers who need an attorney should call several and inquire about fees, but be willing to pay for experience. Do not hire "Uncle Harry, the tax attorney" to handle what may be the biggest investment of your life, she advises. "On a $100,000 home, the attorney's fee is minuscule, and on a bad deal, that fee could save you a tremendous amount of heartache as well as money to fix whatever problems crop up," Glink said.

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