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Expert Advice on Buying a Home: An Interview with Kimberly Wisneski of Semmelman & Semmelman Attorneys at Law

By Kimberly S. Wisneski, JD

Please tell us a little bit about your firm and the areas of law that you practice.

For over 40 years, Semmelman & Semmelman, Ltd. has helped clients accomplish their estate planning, estate and trust administration, residential and commercial real estate, and business goals and objectives. We primarily serve clients in Lake County, Illinois, and have built a solid reputation on extraordinary dedication. Each attorney has spent the vast majority of his or her legal career with Semmelman & Semmelman, Ltd. We believe this to be a strong reflection of the commitment of the attorneys to the firm , the clients and the communities we serve.

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

The purchase or sale of a home is a significant financial and emotional transaction for most people. This is true regardless of whether you are on the purchase side or the sale side of the transaction. These types of stressors can cause problems in negotiating and navigating issues that may arise during the process. The two most common contract provisions that I see issues crop up is over inspection and financing. These contingencies have to be carefully negotiated and managed for the duration of the contract in order to have a smooth transaction.

What are some of the main ways that a real estate lawyer can help when you're buying a home?

Buying a home is probably the single, largest purchase you will make during your lifetime. It should be treated seriously. I help my clients understand the terms of the contract and the client's obligations clearly. I negotiate and manage the contingencies, including lender financing, which is essential for a successful purchase transaction. Prior to closing, I will review the property survey and title report to ensure that my client is receiving unencumbered ownership. At the closing, I review all seller paperwork and all lender documents before they are executed for accuracy. And after the closing, I ensure the deed to the property is recorded, a title policy is issued and both originals are turned over to the buyers. During the transaction, I am in communication with my clients every step of the way to answer questions and resolve issues as they arise.

What is one of the biggest challenges for homeowners when it comes to closing?

On the sale side of the transaction, the biggest challenge when it comes to closing usually has to do with clearing title to the property. Occasionally, a Seller may not be ready to vacate on time or there can be walk through issues that arise at closing over the condition of the property, but generally, Sellers are moved out on time and have all agreed upon repairs completed. The closing problems tend to arise over issues with obtaining lien releases or payoffs, survey encroachments, or municipal requirements and inspections. Clearing title exceptions and having all Seller documentation properly prepared in advance is an important aspect of the contract that I manage for my selling clients. It is also important for Sellers to understand all of the representations and warranties they are making to the buyer when they agree to the sale. Many of these survive the closing and can be a source of liability post closing for an unwitting Seller.

How can a buyer help make sure the sale goes smoothly?

The buyer can be on top of his or her financing. Obtaining a pre-approval letter from a bank before buying can be very helpful. Making application to the bank for a mortgage quickly and responding quickly to clear underwriting conditions can make all the difference in how smoothly a sale goes.

What advice would you give to first-time home buyers?

If you are considering buying a home, start the financing process before looking! Find out what purchase amount you will qualify for with the funds you have available for a down payment . Look into what programs and incentives are available for first time buyers. Your offer to a seller will be much more attractive if you have a pre-approval letter from the bank. Once a seller accepts your offer, get the contract to a lawyer as soon as possible. Many first time buyers are not aware that often contracts contain a 5 business day deadline for your lawyer to review and request any modifications to the contract terms.

What's the best way for people to contact your firm?

Kimberly S. Wisneski
www.semmelmanlaw.com
kim@semmelmanlaw.com
Semmelman & Semmelman, Ltd.
900 North Shore Drive, Suite 250
Lake Bluff, IL 60044
O: (847)234-4438
C: (847)652-1937
F: (847)234-4674

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