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Insider Advice on Buying Your Home: An Interview with Liz Tanner of Tanner Law, Ltd.

By Elizabeth Tanner

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

I worked for a national title insurance provider for 8 years as a Quality Assurance Representative- aka- Auditor. I wasn't your typical scary auditor in that I spent a lot of time training and educating attorneys and title company's all up and down the East Coast on best practices for real estate closings. Then the Sarbanes Oxley Act became law and my job changed dramatically. My company wanted me to be the scary auditor and that wasn't what I wanted to do. So I opened my own law practice in 2005. Because I'd had the opportunity to work with so many real estate attorneys and because real estate was booming at the time, I was blessed to have many of them as my clients. I did a lot of side projects for them and helped them during a busy time. I tried hard not to compete with them and they respected that. I also started working with small businesses through the Center for Women & Enterprise in Providence by teaching about legal entity choice. In addition to some estate planning, my main areas of practice are real estate and small business needs.

What are the main advantages of working with a real estate lawyer when you're buying or selling a home?

Although there are many reasons to hire an attorney to assist you, based on my experience, I think the main reason is the same as why you hire a realtor and have a broker to help you get a loan- you have an experienced, real-live person that you can actually talk to who will handle the transaction (and all its headaches) for you. I recently did a purchase where the lender had a policy of never calling their homebuyers. They would only communicate via email- it was horrible. Even in this era of technology- nothing can top actually speaking with someone who has experience and can help you and solve your problems. It is a rare occasion that there isn't some sort of issue that needs to be resolved. Closings almost never go 100% problem free. Therefore, unless you have some experience- you are a fool to try to do it all yourself just to save a few bucks. It absolutely isn't worth it.

What is a lawyer's role in a typical purchase and sales agreement, and how long does the process usually take from start to finish?

With the recent changes made to the RI standard Purchase and Sale Agreement, from a buyer's perspective the agreement is pretty good. I typically try to learn more about the buyer's and seller's personal situation and potential concerns and then make what are usually very minor changes, if any. It's usually just a quick phone call.

What, if anything, can a buyer do to help make sure the sale goes smoothly?

Trust the people who are on your team. When I teach at CWE on starting businesses, I always tell would be potential business owners to do what you love and ask for help with the rest. If you are buying a house, work on getting the house ready, make your house something you will love. Otherwise, rely on your team of professionals to do the job for you. Don't get overly involved, let them handle it. They know what they are doing and nobody gets paid unless it gets worked out so it is in their best interest to make sure the deal closes.

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

Inspections are often a problem. For a buyer, make sure you can get out of the deal if you are not happy with the results. If you are selling and want the best price or to sell it quickly, it might be wise to have an inspection done first and do what you can to make those corrections before selling. Delays caused by a lender happen ALL of the time and are incredibly frustrating- expect it and be happy if it doesn't happen.

What advice would you give to people who want to buy a new house?

I know it is really hard but try not to get overly emotional about the purchase of the home and how it is interrupting your life. Try to think of it as a business transaction that may or may not happen. The deal might fall through, your first Christmas dinner in your new home might not happen til next year, your kid might have to start Girl Scouts next month, your vacation plans might get changed and you might have to send in the same paperwork a dozen times- try to roll with it. If it is meant to be, it is meant to be.

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

My email address is liz@tannerlawltd.com and phone is 401-253-7854.

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About The Author

Elizabeth M. Tanner, Esq has owned and operated Tanner Law, Ltd. since 2005. She is a...

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