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When Should You Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?

When Should You Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?

Buying a home is notoriously a stressful process, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Hiring a real estate agent is the first step in delegating some of the never-ending to-do lists. Not many know about the benefits of hiring a real estate lawyer as well.

Hiring a lawyer to help you through your home buying process might seem like additional unnecessary fees, but know that there is a time and a place for them to serve their purpose. You can add more stress to your plate, or you can keep reading to help decide when you should hire a real estate lawyer?

What Can a Real Estate Lawyer Do For You?

Real estate lawyers can help you through your home buying process and can make sure things run smoothly. They can also alleviate risks involved with buying a home and keep your best interests protected.

Some of the responsibilities of real estate lawyers may include the drafting of the following documents:

  • Sales contracts or purchase agreements
  • Leases
  • Eviction notices
  • Title documents
  • Mortgage contracts
  • Title and deed transfer documents

In addition to drafting these documents, they can also help you better understand them. They will also detail your liabilities and potential risks, so you truly know what the terms of the paperwork will mean.

Real estate lawyers can also help you with additional legal services, outside of document drafting, that include:

  • Negotiating
  • Reviewing
  • Due diligence
  • Assisting with building projects
  • Litigating
  • Foreclosure proceedings
  • Closings
  • Title and lien searching
  • Deed transferring
  • Resolving zoning issues
  • Coordinating with lenders, agents, etc

There are certain circumstances in which real estate lawyers can also help with litigation and other disputes.

Are Real Estate Lawyers Required?

Some states do require real estate lawyers in varying steps of the home buying process. While they are not always necessary, it can be in your best interest to pursue hiring an attorney.

If you are looking to purchase a home in any of the following states, you will have to hire a real estate lawyer:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

But, do keep in mind that this is ever-changing as states make additions and revisions to their legislation. Be sure to look up the requirements in your new home’s state to know if you need to hire a real estate lawyer.

When Should You Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?

While basic transactions involving real estate do not always require a real estate lawyer, there are still a multitude of reasons why you should consider hiring one anyway. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, a real estate lawyer can come in handy.

As a Buyer

You should seriously consider hiring a real estate lawyer as a buyer if any of the following apply to you:

  • If you are purchasing a home where you are not familiar
  • If there are physical damages to the property
  • If there is any sort of illegal dwellings, such as an in-law
  • If the land is bank-owned
  • If the property is in an area subject to bad weather, such as floods or tornados
  • If you will need to evict existing tenants
  • If you need assistance backing out of any other contracts

As you can see, several circumstances may arise when you are purchasing a home. Real estate lawyers can help mitigate your risk and alleviate headaches from handling any of the situations independently.

As a Seller

On the other end of the spectrum, a real estate lawyer can be equally helpful if you are a seller. If you are a seller, you should hire a real estate lawyer if any of the situations apply to you:

  • If you are selling land on behalf of a deceased relative
  • If there are structural issues with your property
  • If you, as an individual, have a history of property liens
  • If you are in the process of negotiating a divorce
  • If you are currently in the middle of a short sale or foreclosure

As a seller, if for whatever reason you feel there is something strange in the contract, you should reach out to a real estate lawyer as soon as possible. Addressing issues early on will help to avoid more significant problems that may arise later on.

As a Lender

In some states where it is required by law for a real estate lawyer to be present to oversee the final closing, lenders will hire an attorney to represent them.

How Much Does a Real Estate Lawyer Cost?

Real estate lawyers charge based on either an hourly rate or a flat rate. You will usually see that they charge an hourly fee, but in certain circumstances, you might be able to find one that provides a flat rate when needed. Typically, you want to initially discuss the terms of their charges to know what rates to anticipate.

Hourly Rate

Most commonly, real estate lawyers will charge an hourly rate. This rate ranges from $150 to $350 per hour, depending on the case’s complexity.

Flat Rate

Real estate lawyers may also charge based on a flat rate ranging from $500 to $1,500. Much like the hourly rate, the range is dependent on the details of your case.

Whether they charge by the hour or via a flat rate, most real estate lawyers will offer a free initial consultation.

How Do I Find a Real Estate Lawyer Near Me?

There are multiple different options when it comes to finding an excellent real estate lawyer in your area. The first step is to start your search and find a way to contact a couple to open up the conversation.

Start Your Search

The most challenging part of the whole process of finding a real estate lawyer is to start your search. Once you begin, you’ll see various channels to help you find one that is best suited for your needs. If you’re not sure where to start, consider trying out different options.

Friend and Family Referrals

There’s no better way to find a suitable contact than through a family or friend’s referral. You can start asking around to friends, family members, and even neighbors to see if any of them have recently gone through the purchasing or selling of a home. If not them, maybe someone they know.

If they had a good experience, ask for their real estate agent’s contact information and directly reach them.

State Bar Directory

You might not be able to get a contact through someone you know. Not to worry, you can quickly go online to the state you are looking to purchase your new home and look up real estate lawyers that way. You can access the American Bar Association’s directory and look up lawyers in your area there.

Online Review Sites

You can also look at online legal review sites to find additional information about lawyers close to you. Some of the information you can review on these sites include:

  • What they lawyer specializes in
  • How they set up their fees
  • Reviews from previous clients

Whichever way you decide to seek out legal help, make sure they have your best interest at heart. In the end, this will save you the most headaches throughout your buying and selling process.

In terms of legal review sites, we recommend Lawyer.com, where you can find a reputable real estate lawyer in your area.

Ask Questions

Once you can track down one, or a few, real estate lawyers that you are seriously considering, you want to make sure to come prepared with a series of questions. Having questions prepared will help you to stay on track and lead you to the guidance that will work best for you in your situation.

You might want to consider a few questions asking potential real estate lawyers that you are considering.

  • How long have you been a practicing real estate lawyer?
  • How many similar cases or transactions have you handled in the past?
  • How do you think you would handle my case specifically?
  • What is your general strategy in cases like mine?
  • Will it be you working on my case directly or your paralegals?
  • Will you plan to attend my closing or someone else in your office?
  • How is your fee structure setup?
  • Do your fees include due diligence?

What Is Due Diligence?

Due diligence is a process in real estate law that includes investigating all of the property’s facts. Some of the investigation processes should consist of both the property’s physical and financial condition and its surrounding area.

Another way to think of due diligence is “doing your homework.” It’s crucial to determine if your real estate lawyer fees include this process or not because you want to make sure to do your homework before you accept any contracts.

Conclusion – When Should You Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?

Anything you can do to help alleviate some of the stress of the home buying or selling process is hugely beneficial to you in the long run. While you might be worried that the costs of hiring a real estate lawyer will just be added expenses, it is also important to note the significant role they can potentially play throughout your process.

You might not know that some states require a real estate lawyer, and if you are not purchasing a home in one of those states, hiring an attorney can still be greatly helpful to you.

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