For residential buyers and sellers, real estate agents and brokers provide a wellspring of information - from how to procure a lender to how to choose a neighborhood, from how to price your home to how best to market it. Their role is to provide that information in the interest of their clients making smart decisions related to the buying and selling of their homes. It's not the same role that a real estate attorney plays; however, working in tandem with one another, buyers and sellers can sleep well knowing they have smart counsel in their corner. Cynthia De Riemer is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Greenwich, and the listing agent for 5 Ledge Road, 21 Whiffletree Way (Unit 21) and 380 Sound Beach Avenue. As a Realtor in the dynamic Fairfield County real estate market, De Riemer often works in concert with real estate attorneys, and she consulted with Greenwich attorney Joel Kaye while answering a few questions about the attorney's role during a residential real estate transaction. Even though engaging a real estate attorney may not be legally required by the State, "common sense" compels many buyers and sellers to retain one, De Riemer said. "Beyond handling title insurance, a lawyer's services include reviewing any loan documentation, which the lender will typically insist be performed by a lawyer, anyway. A lawyer will also prepare and record all relevant legal documents; review and draft the purchase and sale agreement and related exhibits; review issues relating to title including encumbrances and easements; investigate survey issues; look into environmental issues, including underground fuel storage tanks; review and advise on Association documents; review and respond to inspections, etcetera," she explained. In addition to the housing market counsel a Realtor provides, engaging an attorney - whether buyer or seller - inserts another failsafe into the process of negotiating the sale of a home, which can sometimes be unexpectedly problematic. "The buyer and seller need their own lawyer to protect against unforeseen surprises that could potentially delay a closing, kill a deal altogether, or become a major problem years after the closing," De Riemer noted. "These surprises could ultimately cost a buyer or seller much more than the fees they would pay a lawyer. Real estate lawyers have handled numerous home closings in their careers, so they bring much more experience to the table than any individual homeowner possibly could, and they can anticipate and manage potential risks or issues before they derail the transaction or become a major financial liability. "Why risk derailing a home purchase or sale, or have issues that could haunt you for years by not engaging a lawyer to help you navigate the complex processes of due diligence, document preparation and closing," De Riemer cautioned. It is important to stress that Realtors and real estate attorneys play two distinguishable roles. Legal and ethical lines are drawn to prevent the blurring of those professional lines. "Thank heaven for attorneys," Carolyn Anderson said. Anderson is the founder and broker behind Anderson Associates, Ltd.. Her firm prepares clients for the transactional process in many ways, and one of those ways is to counsel clients on the importance of retaining legal representation. Each client receives a primer on "The Attorney's Role." "An individual's home is extraordinarily valuable," Anderson explained. "They need the expertise of an experienced Realtor and the expertise of an attorney who specializes in real estate, to protect the buyer and the seller. "Because we work with and communicate continually with an attorney until closing, we have kept deals - that should stay together - happen. So many memories race through my mind - the '1031 transactions,' the home with an oil tank no one knew about until moments before closing, the boundary disputes, and most recently, the midnight excavation of St. Joseph," she recounted. "At the walkthrough prior to closing, the buyers discovered an area of backyard that had been dug up. The attorney for the seller called me to say that the buyer wanted significant money for the repair of the yard. The attorney and I calmly negotiated a plan for the yard repair, no money was laid aside, and the house closed." The Anderson Associates' fact sheet on an attorney's role lists title examination, survey coordination, document examination and preparation, closing oversight and post-closing document preparations and filings as falling under the purview of a real estate attorney. Anderson noted that a real estate attorney was invaluable in helping solidify the contract on 27 Glen Ridge Road and shepherd the transaction to closing.