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What You Should Know About the Home Closing Process: An Interview with Joyce Bartizal of The Law Offices of Joyce B. Bartizal

By Joyce Bartizal

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

I have been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1991. From 1993 until 2007 I was an attorney for Cook County, first as a staff attorney for the Office of the Chief Judge and later as an Assistant Public Defender. During that time I also had a limited private practice in real estate closings. In 2007, I left the public sector and opened a full-time solo practice concentrating in Real Estate, Estates (wills, trusts, probate) and Traffic and Criminal Defense. I also cover areas of general practice.

What's the role of an attorney in home closings in IL?

The role of an attorney is multi-layered in real estate closings in Illinois and the extent of that role depends on whether the lawyer represents the Buyer or the Seller and how complex the deal may be. No matter what, the attorney represents their individual clients' interests in the process while coordinating with other attorneys, lenders, real estate agents, title agents, contractors and local municipalities.

Can you list the basic steps in the home closing process?

Generally speaking, closings pretty much follow the same basic steps. Typically the attorneys' roles at the beginning of the process are similar: the contract is reviewed and changes to the contract and inspection repair issues (if needed) are negotiated between the attorneys. At this point the Seller's attorney will order a title commitment and policy and clear any title issues. The Sellers attorney will also order (if needed) a survey, homeowners' association documents (if needed), ensure municipality requirements are met and prepare all the documents required from the Seller's side at closing. During this time the Buyer's attorney will help ensure the Buyers are approved for their loan in a timely manner and review documents received from the Sellers' attorney. Once the lender issues a "clear to close" the closing time and location are coordinated by the attorneys. At closing each attorney reviews and explains the documents their clients are signing and/or receiving, makes sure the final numbers are correct and makes sure the title company has everything it needs to complete the transaction.

Is there a common misunderstanding that you've noticed potential sellers and buyers have about the process?

One of the common misconceptions and mistakes I see quite often is that people don't realize that this is a major life transaction involving a lot of money and commitment. Every buyer and seller should make sure they are well represented. Cost cutting and bargain shopping, when it comes to legal services, can be a serious mistake. Most times it's worth spending an extra $200 to get quality representation and experience.

What is something about buying or selling a home that most people aren't aware of that they should know?

Sellers need understand that unlike a buyer paying sales tax when something is purchased at the store, it's the Seller who pays the transfer taxes to the State and the County in Illinois.

What are one or two things that the seller can do to help make the home closing process easier?

One of the easiest things a Seller can do is make sure they have an attorney lined up before they even receive their first offer. This allows their real estate broker to list that attorney's information on the contract as soon as it is signed. Attorneys in Illinois have a limited amount of time to review that contract once it is agreed to and trying to hire an attorney after the contract is signed just eats up that precious time.

What are one or two things that the buyer can do to help make the home closing process easier?

Just like a Seller, having an attorney lined up before making an offer is very helpful. A Buyer's attorney is under the same deadline to review the contract and this helps streamline the process. Another important step a Buyer can do to help the process is to already be working with a lender and to have a pre-approval letter when they make their offer. Not only does that make them a more attractive candidate to a Seller, but a part of the mortgage process will already be done.

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

If someone is looking for a real estate attorney in Northeastern Illinois, I can be reached by phone at 630-355-5148 or via e-mail at Bartizal.Law@gmail.com.

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