Attorney Review in a Real Estate Contract

What is the Attorney Review Period?

After signing a real estate contract, the buyers’ and sellers’ lawyers review the terms of the contract in a time period called “attorney review.”

  • During this time, each lawyer may request modifications to the contract in furtherance of their clients’ best interests.
  • This is also when the lawyers can tailor the form contract to reflect the nuances of a specific transaction (such as post-closing possession requirements, or an as-is sale).
  • Should either party terminate the contract during this time, all earnest money is refunded and both parties are released from any further obligations.

Working with the right real estate attorney when buying or selling a residential property can help protect your interests.

This is one of the key services an attorney provides.

Get insights on how to choose the right real estate lawyer.

Why is Attorney Review Important?

In Illinois, buyers and sellers often sign a standard form real estate contract completed by a broker.

  • Without the attorney review clause, all the terms of that contract are binding on all parties.
  • With the review clause, the initial contract serves as a placeholder agreement on price and general terms,
    • But allows the attorneys to ensure that all of the specific terms can be tailored to their clients’ best interests.

It is vital that you share any concerns or requests related to the transaction with your lawyer during this time.  This is your lawyer’s opportunity to include these items in the final agreement.

How Long is the Attorney Review Period?

Most form real estate contracts in Illinois provide for an attorney review period of five business days, not including the date of signing.

You should check the contract and/or confirm with your real estate broker before you sign to make sure this review period is provided.

What Happens During This Time?

  1. During the attorney review period, the lawyers will approve, reject, or propose to modify the contract.
  2. The lawyers will also review the contract to ensure that all necessary signatures and initials are present, and that the seller has provided all legally required disclosures.
  3. A lawyer can declare the contract void if his client chooses to walk away from the deal for (almost) any reason.
  4. As a rule, any negotiations that take place during the attorney review period should be done in close consultation with the client and often with the real estate broker as well.
    • While some lawyers use these negotiations as a chance to ‘prove their mettle,’ the goal should be for everyone to remain amicable, while fully protecting the best interests of the client.

The primary business terms of the contract, such as the purchase price and closing date, are technically not subject to modification under attorney review.

However, any items discovered by a home inspector, appraiser, or through other means, or terms that affect the legal rights of the parties, often provide an attorney the basis to negotiate or terminate the contract, if necessary.

What’s the Difference Between Attorney Review and the Inspection Period?

In addition to attorney review, most real estate contracts in Illinois allow a buyer to hire a licensed inspector to evaluate all aspects of the physical condition of the property.

The inspection review period allows the buyer an opportunity to discover issues with the physical condition of the property that were not readily noticeable when the buyer made the offer.

It is common for the home inspection provision in the contract to coincide with attorney review period, giving the attorneys an opportunity to negotiate any items revealed by the home inspection.

The buyer’s attorney can also request an extension for the home inspection contingency during the review period, if the inspector need more time to complete their report.

The Importance of Legal Representation in a Real Estate Transaction

Attorney review is one of the primary services provided by a real estate lawyer in Chicagoland.

A lawyer familiar with Illinois real estate laws and customs will ensure the contract addresses any potential issues that could arise over the course of a transaction.

A real estate lawyer represents the best interests of his or her client throughout the life of a transaction. If there are title issues – such as chain of title, lot line challenges, or any other contract disputes – the attorney will be able to provide the client with solutions or options.

Make sure you have the right professional in your corner! Learn more about how to choose a real estate attorney.

Get more information about Adler and Herbach’s legal services for Buyers and Sellers.

If you have any questions or want more detail, feel free to contact us.