What Types of Real Estate Transaction Can a Real Estate Attorney Help With?
Real estate attorneys are licensed to deal with all kinds of real estate transactions. For most people, this will involve the buying or selling of their private home, although commercial real estate attorneys assist property developers, landlords, and companies buying and selling property.
Your real estate lawyer will be able to handle anything that rises in your house sale or purchase, including dealing with your mortgage paperwork, checking title, and ensuring that there are no outstanding liens on the property.
Real estate attorneys also handle more complex or difficult real estate transactions, such as short sales or the purchase of investment properties. If you face foreclosure, you can also hire a foreclosure attorney to represent your interests during the process.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?
The cost of hiring a real estate attorney depends on your location, their experience, and the level of work involved. Some real estate attorneys offer flat fee rates, for example if they are only handling the closing. Typical costs for the complete handling of a private home sale or purchase are in the region of $2000 - $3000, but if your transaction involves complex title issues, you could be looking at an hourly rate of $500 or more.
You will be expected to pay your real estate attorney’s fees either at or before closing.
Tips for Finding the Best Real Estate Attorney
Personal recommendations are a great way to find a trusted real estate attorney near you - find out who family and friends used for their real estate transactions, and whether they were happy with the price and the service.
Your estate agent may also recommend a real estate attorney they have a relationship with, although you are under no obligation to use their preferred lawyer.
Another way to get recommendations is from our directory of screened and verified real estate attorneys across the United States.
Here you can easily narrow down your search to your state or city, and you can view reviews right here within the directory, to get a sense of who the best real estate attorneys are in your area.
Ideally, choose a real estate attorney who is very familiar with your local law, and who is personable, a good communicator, and experienced with your kind of transaction.
FAQ On Hiring a Real Estate Attorney
1 - Do I have to hire a real estate attorney?
That depends on where your real estate transaction is taking place.
More than 20 states have laws mandating the use of a real estate attorney when buying or selling a home, typically requiring their presence at closing.
Where a real estate lawyer is not mandated, you may still want to consider hiring your own real estate attorney to ensure that your transaction proceeds smoothly.
If you are the purchaser, you might particularly want to hire a real estate attorney if you are an out-of-state or out-of-town buyer, or if you are buying a short sale property or a property that is part of an estate. If your chosen property has structural issues or is in a problematic area - such as a flood zone or a tornado-prone area, it’s also a good idea to get your real estate attorney involved.
If you are the seller, you would benefit from a real estate attorney if the property you are selling is not in great condition, or if there are judgments or outstanding liens against the property. If you are the executor for a property owner who has died, or if you have inherited the property yourself, it would also be wise to seek counsel from an experienced real estate attorney.
2 - What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate attorney? Why would I need both?
As mentioned above, many states mandate the involvement of a real estate attorney in your home purchase or sale. Even where this is not the case, however, real estate agents and real estate attorneys offer different services with different goals.
A real estate agent can provide you with support throughout the home buying or selling process. Their local knowledge is invaluable, and they are trained to support you up to and including the closing process. However, real estate agents are prohibited by law from providing you with legal advice.
A real estate attorney, on the other hand, is there specifically to provide you with legal counsel.
If your real estate transaction is very straightforward and an attorney is not mandated, you may be able to get away with relying on your real estate agent’s expertise alone. But if you fit into any of the categories mentioned above in Q1, a real estate attorney is strongly advised. After all, the financial commitment you are making is huge - it’s worth making sure that everything is watertight, for your own peace of mind.
3 - Is litigation the only way to resolve a real estate dispute?
Real estate disputes can arise for a wide variety of reasons, including property defects, boundary disputes, construction delays, and landlord-tenant disputes. Your real estate attorney will advise on your personal situation, but as a general rule, litigation is a last resort. The best real estate lawyers will work to resolve real estate disputes through negotiation first, and will only litigate if all else fails.