Purchasing a home is likely to be one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime. While it is common knowledge to hire a real estate agent when you are looking to buy, few are also familiar with adding a real estate lawyer to your team.
Although hiring a real estate lawyer will result in additional costs for you, it might be something worth looking into to help you save in the long run. But, before you go looking to hire, you might be wondering, what do real estate lawyers do?
What Is A Real Estate Lawyer?
A real estate lawyer is an attorney who explicitly practices real estate law in the state for which they have their license. Real estate attorneys have extensive knowledge and expertise in real estate transactions, including purchasing a home.
What Is Covered Under Real Estate Law?
Real estate law involves the purchasing and selling any land and the structures on it, also known as real property. It can also cover any legal issues that may arise regarding anything that is a part of the property, including appliances and fixtures within it.
Some of the items that fall under real estate law include:
- Proper procedure during acquisition or sale
- Ensures proper zoning for usage
- Handling deeds
- Covering property taxes
- Estate planning
- Overviewing titles
What Do Real Estate Lawyers Do?
Real estate lawyers can provide knowledge and insight regarding paperwork and legalities for both selling and buying parties. Additionally, real estate lawyers have legal authorization to review both the documents and contract necessary to sell or purchase a home.
In some states, where it is required, your real estate lawyer will be in charge of your closing altogether.
Sometimes, you can hire real estate lawyers to handle disputes between the selling and purchasing parties. Overall, they have a wide range of responsibilities and can play various roles depending on the situation.
Prepare to Purchase
All real estate lawyers are fully equipped to prepare and review all documents relating to your home’s purchase agreement. In addition to the purchase agreement, real estate lawyers will also prepare and check the following:
- Mortgage documents
- Title documents
- Transfer documents
Assist During the Transaction
If required by law or hired by personal preference, real estate lawyers specifically for transactions will attend the closing with the party they represent. The lawyer will participate to ensure all actions are legal, binding, and in the client’s best interest with whom they represent.
Other items the real estate lawyer and their team might be responsible for handling during this process include:
- Writing title insurance policies
- Completing title searches
- Handling transfer of funds
- Finishing federal HUD-1 Forms
Handle Real Estate Disputes
Real estate lawyers are also hired at times to settle real estate disputes between multiple parties. Some of the dispute issues they will handle include:
- Chain of title
- Lot line issues
- Contract disputes
Provide Legal Representation
Sometimes, when real estate disputes do not get handled easily, they are taken into the courtroom. In these circumstances, your real estate lawyer will provide you legal representation. Like any other courtroom attorney, these lawyers will gather facts from both parties and try to resolve them.
What Are the Qualifications for Real Estate Lawyers?
Real estate lawyers have earned their law degrees, much like any other commonly known lawyer. Law degrees will typically require three years of full-time study. Graduating students will then be required to pass a state bar exam, which is administered by the state for which they intend to practice.
To specialize in real estate law, students can prepare during law school by taking elective courses. Additionally, during law school, students can opt for real estate law internships that have the opportunity for continuation following, which results in a certification.
Who Hires Real Estate Lawyers?
Both buyers and sellers of homes can hire real estate lawyers to represent them and their interests throughout the sale process.
In certain circumstances, and when required, real estate lawyers must be present to oversee the final closing when there is a mortgage loan involved. In these situations, the real estate lawyer may be representing the mortgage lender.
Why Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer?
Some states require that a real estate lawyer is present at closing. As you can imagine, this would make an obvious need for these attorneys in these locations.
Otherwise, even if your state does not require a real estate lawyer, it might be in your best interest to hire one to represent your interests.
Depending on where you are purchasing your home, the law may require you to have a real estate lawyer involved at some point in the process. The states that currently require real estate lawyer involvement include:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Keep in mind that this list frequently changes as states update their legislation. Also, the requirements of the real estate lawyers’ level of involvement can vary from state to state.
If you plan to purchase your home through the use of a mortgage loan, you will want to check with your lender to see what the closing requirements will be. Some lenders will require you to have a real estate lawyer present at your closing for protection for both you and the lending company.
Some home sales come with some special clauses or contractual elements that complicate the entire process. Having a real estate lawyer on your side through the sale’s operation will ensure that you can work out all the complexities. They can also help you with any additional issues that arise as a result of these clauses.
Represent Your Interests
Although your state might not require a real estate lawyer in the process of purchasing or selling your home, it might be a good idea to hire one to protect your interests anyway. Hiring a real estate lawyer will ensure to review all of the paperwork involved and advise you of any problems or potential omissions within the documents.
How Much Do Real Estate Lawyers Charge?
When you hire a real estate lawyer, they will let you know upfront how they charge. Typically, real estate lawyers charge on an hourly rate, but sometimes they will offer a flat rate charge.
You will mostly see real estate lawyers charging an hourly fee that ranges from anywhere between $150 and $350 per hour.
Not as often, real estate lawyers will charge a flat rate for their services. This flat rate can range anywhere from $500 to $1,500, depending on the complexity of the work they will be handling.
Whether they charge hourly or a flat rate, most real estate lawyers will offer a free initial consultation.
How Can I Find Real Estate Lawyers in My Area?
It’s no wonder that if you are looking to hire a real estate lawyer, you will want to find one that comes with great credibility. Buying a home is such an expensive purchase, and adding more costs to that by hiring a lawyer can bring a lot of stress with it. Don’t let finding a reliable real estate lawyer add even more stress to your process.
If you aren’t sure where to start finding a good real estate lawyer for you, there are a few recommendations to consider.
Ask Friends and Family
Start a conversation with your friends and family. See if any of them have recently bought or sold a home or know anyone who has. Chances are, there was an attorney involved in some facet, and you can see if they enjoyed the process with the real estate lawyer they worked with directly.
State Bar Directory
You can go online to your state or the state you are looking to purchase your new home and look up lawyers in your area that are currently practicing. The American Bar Association’s directory is a great place to start.
Online Legal Review Sites
Whether you have looked up a real estate lawyer using the American Bar Association’s directory or prefer to look elsewhere, there are several different legal review sites you can look at to find reputable lawyers in your area.
These sites are a great tool to utilize whether you have someone in mind or not because they have valuable information provided on them, including:
- Lawyer specialties
- Fee structures
- Client reviews
As far as legal review sites go, we recommend Lawyer.com, where you can find a reputable real estate lawyer in your area.
However you seek out finding a real estate lawyer, you want to ensure that your best interest is always the highest priority. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions early on, and only go with an attorney with whom you will be able to trust through the entire process.
Conclusion – What Do Real Estate Lawyers Do?
Hiring a real estate lawyer is not only helpful during the process of purchasing your new home but is sometimes actually required in some states. Whether you are following your state’s requirements or looking to have reliable representation and assistance throughout the process, real estate lawyers are a wealth of knowledge to help ease you through a challenging and stressful time.
- When Should You Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?
- Should You Hire a Lawyer When Buying a House?
- What is an Estate Lawyer (And What Do They Do?)
- 63 Different Types of Lawyers in Canada and the USA
Emily is a professionally trained freelance writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business, law and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV. When she is not spending her time freelance writing, Emily enjoys growing her social media skills and spending time with her rescue puppy. Find out more about Emily’s extensive background or reach out directly at www.linkedin.com/in/Emily-Kho.