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Real Estate Often Calls for Legal Advice

Written by Lew Sichelman on Tuesday, 23 May 2006 7:00 pm

When asked for what reasons people might consider hiring legal representation, most people's answers involved situations concerning their real estate dealings.

There are many real estate related issues that lead to the need for legal advice, everything from selling and buying to financing the transaction or refinancing a mortgage, from resolving issues with a tenant or perhaps locking horns with a landlord. And according to, three of the top reasons are related to real estate.

LegalMatch is a free, on-line matching service that helps anyone with a computer connect with attorneys and access their legal rights. LegalMatch was founded in 1999, and then survived the dot-com melt-down to become one of the top such services in the country. Thousands of people submit legal help requests each month through LegalMatch.

Sited most frequently by LegalMatch users as the time when they "at least consider hiring legal representation" is when they are buying or selling a property. And why not? Real estate deals certainly can be tricky.

Of course, not every sale requires a lawyer. But the more complicated the transaction, the more you might want a qualified attorney to at least look over any paper work that you are required (or asked) to sign. With so many do-it-yourself books on the topic, it's tempting to go it alone. But if something goes haywire, having an attorney in your corner can bring genuine peace of mind to what otherwise could be an anxious, if not costly, moment.

The second most frequent time that people consider hiring an attorney is when they refinance their homes. This one's somewhat surprising. After all, trading in one mortgage for another simply can't be as hair-raising an experience as obtaining that first mortgage, if only because you've done it at least once already. And most people do it the first time without a lawyer in tow.

But when you think about it, mortgages are long-term commitments, just like real estate transactions. So perhaps some people feel more comfortable with someone representing their interests sitting next to them at the closing table. After all, many of the world's most successful people suggest never signing anything unless a lawyer reads it first.

The fifth most frequent time folks consider hiring legal help is when they are involved in a dispute involving real estate. Situations with a landlord, tenant, neighbor, homeowners association or condo board usually involve interpretation of an existing contract, written or oral. And who among us laymen is able to do that?

In case you are wondering, the other reasons people consider asking for legal advice are, in descending order:

Creating or revising a will, estate plan or trust (which also often involves real estate); were given inadequate medical care; were cited for a moving traffic violation; having difficult with creditors, including, perhaps, their mortgage lender; had to deal with administering an estate or an inheritance; difficulty obtaining medical insurance; believed they were a victim of consumer fraud; thinking of filing bankruptcy; having difficulty collecting public benefits; having problems with a public utility, and were involved in a dispute over child custody or support.

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