Anatomy of a Real Estate Transaction

The Offer

To make certain you receive the most effective representation possible, contact your attorney at the earliest opportunity. This allows everyone on your team (attorney, real estate agent and lender) to coordinate their activities most efficiently.

If a Buyer enlists the services of a real estate agent, the agent will generally draw up the initial offer and assist with the negotiations. The contract should specify the purchase price, the Buyer’s financing and payment methods, prorations, personal property that is included or excluded, and the dates of closing and possession.

The contract must also specify the amount of time allowed for inspection and for the parties’ attorneys to review the contract and make necessary changes. It is important to schedule the inspection early so your attorney has time to address any problems discovered by your inspector.

After the initial offer is accepted, written communication regarding inspection or contractual issues submitted to the other side may be construed as a counteroffer. Your attorney should ensure that your written communication will not be misconstrued as a counteroffer. Without a real estate agent, the buyer or the buyer’s lawyer will draft the offer.


If you are purchasing a condominium, make certain you are familiar with the Association’s By-Laws. For example, some Associations prohibit certain pets. Others put limits on the types of businesses that may operate from the condominium unit or prohibit rental of the unit.

A condominium contract should specify the association fee. It should also list any special assessments that have been declared. Your attorney should acquire all relevant disclosure documents as required by the Illinois Condominium Property Act.

New Construction

New construction may offer the greatest risks to buyers. Although some builders will advise against legal representation, remember you are buying a hole in the ground based upon a picture and a promise.

Before hiring an attorney, you may want to investigate the builder’s reputation. Call the Village Building Department and ask about his track record. If he is new to the community, call villages where he has built homes. Ask the builder for references and call others who have bought homes from him.

When you have completed your investigation, send a sample copy of the builder’s contract to your attorney. If you sign a contract before your attorney has seen it, make certain it contains a provision allowing your attorney time to review it.

Your attorney will review the contract for a number of things such as who will hold the earnest money, what provisions will be made if building is not completed on time and what your options are if small items remain undone at closing. Can you hold back money until these jobs are completed? Although some builders may refuse to make certain changes in their contract, it is important to understand your rights before the attorney approval period expires.

After your attorney approves the contract, the balance of the earnest money is paid into an escrow account. Contingencies must be satisfied, extended or waived; mortgage payoff letters must be ordered; inspection issues cleared up; and closing and possession must be coordinated between the Buyer and Seller, the Buyer’s lender, real estate agents and attorneys. If you are buying or selling a condominium, the condominium association will also be involved.

Your attorney reviews existing title information and orders title insurance. If available, a copy of the old title insurance policy and survey may be helpful. Your attorney carefully reviews the title information to make certain that all liens or impermissible encroachments are resolved before closing so the chain of title to the Buyer is clean and marketable.

Between the Contract and the Closing

The attorney prepares or reviews the following closing documents: the real estate deed, affidavit of title, bill of sale for personal property transfer tax declaration, “ALTA”(American Land Title Association) statement, tax affidavits, insurance certificates or paid bills, closing proration statement and numerous lender documents including the note and mortgage. The Seller does not need to be at the Closing, but will nee to presign the necessary documents prior to Closing. If the Buyer will not be present, mortgage documents requiring an original signature or a Power of Attorney acceptable to the Lender must be signed in advance.

The Closing

Prior to closing, the title company determines the amount of money needed at the closing. Generally, the exact amount is not known until the title company prepares the Settlement Statement or “RESPA” (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) the day before the closing. However, your attorney can give you an estimate of the funds needed prior to that date. The Buyer should bring a certified or cashier’s check made payable to either the title company or the Buyer. If it is payable to the Buyer, the check is endorsed at the closing. At the end of the closing, the title company disburses the Buyer’s and lender’s checks as required. The Buyer should also bring a personal checkbook to cover unexpected costs, a paid insurance bill (if required by the lender) and personal identification such as driver’s license.

At closing, the attorneys verify the accuracy of the closing documents and check the closing figures and compliance with the contract. The title company closer oversees the transaction, assuring that accurate amounts are exchanged and properly directed. A title company agent will take the original Deed and Mortgage to the County Recorder’s office for recording.

At the closing, you will receive a copy of the RESPA. This provides a concise, detailed accounting of the transaction. You should give your accountant a copy of this form. Additionally, if you are using a lender, and selling and buying within a short time frame, your lender may require a copy of the RESPA from your sale before approving the closing on your purchase.

Post Closing

Shortly after the closing, the County Recorder mails the recorded deed and the title insurance company sends the title insurance policy to the Buyer’s attorney. After review, the attorney subsequently forwards these documents to the Buyer. Your attorney should also be available to answer any post-closing questions that arise.