Judy Maldonado is an expert real estate lawyer in Gurnee, Illinois and discussed the many pitfalls that can occur in the process of buying or selling a home.

Judy knew from an early age she wanted to be a lawyer and instead of playing house, she liked to play Courtroom! She attended law school at DePaul in Chicago. After graduation, Judy worked for the Chicago law firm she had clerked for as a law student. Her practice included some courtroom work in family law as well as a great number of real estate closings. These experiences helped Judy become skilled at identifying issues and steering people to an agreement. After 9 years at the Chicago law firm, Judy decided to open her own law practice in Gurnee which specializes in real estate and family law; areas where she feels she can best help people. Judy is trilingual and can be reached at phone number (847)379-7300 and email address judy@jkmlaw.com. Her web site is jkmlaw.com.

Though the purchase or a sale of a home can be stressful and complicated, Judy finds that clients are generally happy to deal with their lawyers as buying or selling a home is a milestone event for most people. The stress of a real estate matter can come from the deadlines imposed in a real estate contract. Generally, once a contract for a sale of real estate is signed, the parties involved have 5 business days to review the contract and negotiate any changes. Judy becomes involved with the process after the contract is signed and needs to be reviewed before the deadline and time is of the essence. There is a great deal of work to do in that 5 day period.

A common question from Sellers is whether it is best to sell their home through a real estate agent or sell it themselves (FSBO). Judy recommends that it is best to use an agent as a lot of important matters might be missed if a Seller tries to negotiate on their own without the help of an agent. Using a real estate agent does not cost the Buyer any money as the Seller pays the agent a commission. Additionally, the agent’s expertise and skill will be invaluable to Buyers as they look for a home. An attorney does not generally become involved in the process until the contract is signed and needs to be reviewed and then at the closing.

The sales contract itself is a 13 page multiboard real estate contract. An attorney reviewing the contract looks at how the real estate taxes will be paid, the closing date, inspections appraisals, financing dates, personal property to be included in the sale and the number of parcels and PIN numbers, among other things.

One aspect of the real estate contract that can be complicated is the proration of the real estate tax bill. Illinois property taxes are paid 1 year in arrears; that is last year’s taxes are paid this year. The general rule is that this year’s taxes are based on 105% of last year’s taxes for the number of days involved. Though this is a good general rule, the lawyer still needs to check the most recent tax bill for the property for anything that might skew that figure such as whether a senior freeze exemption or homestead exemption comes into play.

Additionally it is important to check the most recent valuation for the property to determine if there has been an unusual jump in the property’s valuation. All these matters should be factored into the real estate contract so there is not a big surprise when the next tax bill is issued.

Another factor that must be considered in a real estate contract is whether a Homeowners Association or a Managing Association is involved. It is important to obtain all relevant documents for such entities such as dues and meeting minutes. These entities take care of insurance and maintenance for common areas for subdivisions or condo association.

The real estate lawyer also must check to see if a transfer stamp is involved in the contract. This stamp is a tax imposed by governmental units on the transfer or sale of real estate. Illinois imposes a tax of $1.00/$1,000.00 of the contract sales price. Additionally, counties will impose transfer stamps as well as many municipalities. It is important to know what these costs will be before the closing as these taxes are paid at closing. As an aside, at closings for properties that have city water and sewer, the paid bills for these services must be tendered at closing.

An inspection of the property is important. A real estate agent or attorney can recommend an inspector. The inspection is not for minor repairs but for things that are not readily apparent such as the condition of the roof, attic, foundation, mold, asbestos and radon. The contract includes a Residential Real Property Disclosure Report which requires that the Seller must disclose the condition of the property. If the Seller misrepresents or actively conceals the property’s condition, the Seller can be sued.

Another important matter is the appraisal of the property which determines a value of the property. If the value of the property is appraised at a figure lower than the purchase price of the contract, a real estate agent can dispute the appraisal by providing “comps” or examples of comparable properties with values close to the purchase price. Additionally the Buyer and Seller can renegotiate the price and meet in the middle.

There are issues for the Seller in a real estate contract. One issue for the Seller includes property taxes; did the assessed value of the property go down in recent years? If so, the Seller may request a lower proration for the property taxes. A Seller can also save some money by asking if the Buyer will accept an older survey (as long as it is fairly recent) instead of paying for a new survey. The survey is a map of the property. The Seller needs to have clear title in order to sell his or her property. Are all taxes paid? Are there any mechanic’s liens on the property? Are there any judgments against the Seller? If there was a mortgage on the property, has the pay-off letter been ordered? All of these matters must be researched and cleared in order for the Seller to be able to transfer clear title with the sale of the property.

At the closing, the individuals present include the real estate agent, lawyers for the Seller and Buyer, the Title Company representative or closer, a loan officer and possibly the Buyer. The Seller usually does not attend the closing as they have their lawyer representing them at the closing. The Buyer’s lawyer reviews all of the Seller’s documents to make sure that there is clear title. Judy derives a great deal of satisfaction from participating in a closing and helping a family attain their dream of owning a home.