When Are You The Legal Owner?

In the last few years I’ve done a lot of work representing banks in the sale of foreclosed homes. One question that comes up frequently is the buyer requesting access to the property prior to the escrow closing. On several occasions we’ve found buyer’s having accessed the property and starting to do work i.e. prep work for painting, lino, carpet etc.  despite the fact that they had been told they could not and did not have permission to be on the property. Until the loan funds and records with the county the deal is not done. You become the legal owner when it records and we’re on record.  Until then the seller remains the legal owner of the property and is at risk for liability. 

Buyers should never be at a property unattended without their agent. Period! It is a liability to the Seller, the listing agent and the buyers agent.  Agents that give out the combination for a lockbox so their clients can view a property unattended are putting all parties at risk. Not to mention it is a clear professional and ethical indiscretion in my opinion as well as an MLS violation.