What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

Written by Ashley Sutphin Posted On Friday, 22 September 2023 00:00

A real estate attorney may or may not need to be part of your home buying or selling process, but how do you know?

Having an understanding of what they do and their specific role can help you understand if this is someone you need on your team.

What Do Real Estate Lawyers Do?

First, what does a real estate lawyer do overall? They handle real estate transactions, but what does that mean?

For buyers, a real estate lawyer  might go over the documents related to the purchase, including your contract and any other agreements you could have made with the seller. A real estate attorney can also go over your lender documents and your title and transfer documents.

In some cases, a real estate attorney might attend the closing.

A real estate attorney can advise the parties in a real estate transaction on both ends, including not only buyers but also sellers.

An attorney can also represent a mortgage lender.

When Do You Need to Hire an Attorney?

Whether or not you need to hire a real estate attorney can depend on the laws in your state and the local area. You may be required to pay for the services of a real estate attorney even if you don’t want to, dependent upon local law. Some states, for example, consider a home closing as a practice of law, meaning an attorney has to be there.

Reasons you might want one, aside from state or local requirements, include:

• If there are any things that are outside the ordinary with a contract, then having an attorney at least look things over can be beneficial. Complex situations almost always benefit from having a lawyer go over the contracts.
• Some people like the peace of mind that comes with working with an attorney. This can help you feel confident, and you can ensure your bases are fully covered.
• You might hire an attorney if you’re buying a home that’s part of a special type of sale. This can include a short sale, buying from a bank, an auction, or an estate sale.
• An attorney could be helpful if you’re buying a home in another state.
• You might be selling a home that was owned by a family member, and you’re the representative of the estate.
• Selling a home that has significant issues or structural damage may mean you need an attorney.
• Your property has liens on it, and you’re trying to sell it because of financial issues.
• You’re selling a home that’s part of a divorce settlement.

If you’re in Connecticut, Georgia, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, New York, or Massachusetts, you’re required by state law to have a real estate attorney handle some parts of the transaction.

In other states, including Louisiana, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi, you have to have an attorney provide a title opinion, according to state law.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Real Estate Attorney?

The cost of hiring a real estate attorney depends pretty significantly on the specific services they’re providing and also who is responsible for that part of the closing costs.

Some attorneys will charge by the hour, and others might charge a flat fee that will include certain services.

Overall, unless your state requires it or you have a complex or unique situation, you can probably buy or sell a home with a lawyer to represent you. If you can afford it, though, it can be valuable to have someone look over your contracts during this time.

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