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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article discusses what to expect when selling residential real estate in Illinois. We will cover the following topics:

  • Selecting a lawyer
  • Listing your home
  • Receiving and accepting an offer
  • Home inspection and negotiations
  • Clearing title
  • Documents at closing
  • Surviving the transaction

Selling a home can be a stressful experience. Once you have a buyer, keeping that buyer, and getting to the closing can seem like a marathon. A good real estate lawyer can make the difference between a smooth closing and a nightmare. Finding a good lawyer and real estate broker should be the first steps you take. A good team will guide you through the process while protecting your best interests.  

Selecting A Lawyer

It is important to choose the right lawyer for your real estate transaction. A residential real estate transaction can be a simple matter. In the wrong hands, it can be a mess. Close attention to details and deadlines is a must. A missed date can delay or jeopardize the deal.  

A good real estate lawyer will have extensive experience handling seller-side transactions. An attorney who is also an agent for a title insurance company is usually a good sign. They can utilize the staff at the title company to help guide and smooth the transaction. A good attorney will also be familiar with the local customs and standards for real estate transactions. It helps to know whether a buyer’s request is reasonable or customary. Deals can be lost over a lack of common courtesy.  

At the end of the day, choosing an attorney that you feel comfortable with is good idea.  

Listing Your Home

Your real estate broker can best advise you on how to list your home. However, you will be asked to sign a listing agreement with the brokerage. Just like any legal document, it’s a good idea to have your attorney review it first. Generally, your real estate lawyer won’t have much work to do until a deal is in place.  

Receiving and Accepting An Offer

Your real estate broker will notify you of offers for your home. In Illinois real estate transactions, the broker generally assists you with this negotiation. However, if the buyer wants to request specific contract terms as part of the offer, then you will want to consult with your attorney. For example, some buyers want to make their purchase contingent on them selling their current home first. On one hand, you know the buyer will have money. On the other, you are tying the success of your sale to the success of the buyer’s. Understanding these terms and protecting your interests go hand-in-hand.

Even if you accept the offer before working out all of the specifics of the contract, there is an attorney review period at the beginning of the deal. During this time, your attorney will discuss proposed modifications to the contract with the buyer’s attorney. Adjustments can be made to the initial contract terms if the parties agree.  

Home Inspection And Negotiations

Even if you are selling your home “as-is,” a smart buyer will have a property inspection conducted after signing the contract. A property inspector examines the house inside and out, making note of items that need repair or that are possibly unsafe. Many home buyers will use the report as a basis for requesting that the seller make repairs to the property before the closing.  

In some real estate transactions, the lender may require that the property be in a specific condition before approving a loan. The presence of a hazardous substance like radon could require that mitigation work be performed before the home is safely livable. There are also “problems” with a property that are negligible—you aren’t selling a new house. A good real estate lawyer can help you determine what is worth fixing and what is not. Sometimes buyers will accept a cash credit towards the purchase price instead of repairs. Working out an agreement that works for both parties is key to keeping the deal alive. Learn more about Disclosure Statements when selling a house, which are used to inform your buyer of anything that may be wrong with the property.  

Clearing Title

The most important part of selling your home is providing clean title. This means that your home is free from any liens or other “clouds” on title—you own it free and clear. When you sell your home, the buyer receives a title insurance policy from your real estate lawyer’s title company. It is part of your real estate attorney’s job to “clear” title to your home.  

One of the most common liens recorded against a property is a mortgage. When you sell your home, you will get a payoff letter from your mortgage company. The letter states the amount needed to pay off the loan. Payoff letters are good through a specific date, then the payoff amount can change. At the closing, the title company uses the letter to determine how much money to send and where to send it. The mortgage company will then record a release with the county recorder of deeds. This allows you to give clear title to the buyer.

Other liens may include mechanic’s liens, judgment liens, tax liens, and other documents recorded against the property. These types of liens also need to be resolved before a title company will issue a title insurance policy. Ideally, you should know if these liens exist. Surprises have happened. In practice, most of these types of liens must be paid and released as part of the closing process. Your real estate attorney can work with their title company to resolve the issues and close the deal.  

Documents at Closing

Sellers bring more than just a deed to the closing table. Here are just a few of the documents that sellers bring to the closing:

  • A deed
  • A bill of sale  
  • An affidavit of title
  • A survey
  • A fully-waived title insurance commitment (the title company issues a policy based on the waived commitment).  
  • A payoff letter
  • Transfer tax documents
  • Transfer stamps
  • Water certificates
  • Zoning certificates
  • A paid assessment letter (if the property is on condo or HOA land)

Surviving The Transaction  

Selling your home can be a long process. Getting from listing to a closed deal can feel like an eternity. A good real estate lawyer will help you avoid roadblocks and eliminate frustrations along the way. No closing is 100% stress-free. It can be an emotional process. Trusting your real estate team to deliver for you is one way to remove some of that stress.  

O’Flaherty Law understands the complex process of buying a home in Illinois. Our real estate lawyers have years of experience on the buy and sell side. We can prepare you for the expected and unexpected issues when buying a home.  

Call our office at (630) 324-6666, email, or schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers today. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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