When you buy or sell a home, you will work with several professionals throughout the process. Your real estate agent, home inspector, and lender can all play a significant role in the transaction. Real estate attorneys can also play a pivotal part, but you may be unsure of what exactly they do. Use this guide to learn more about the role of a real estate attorney.
What does a real estate attorney do?
Real estate attorneys are licensed to practice law and specialize in either commercial or residential real estate. They’re familiar with every aspect of real estate transactions, and they can represent buyers, sellers, or lenders. While they can represent a buyer or seller, a real estate attorney cannot technically represent both parties in a single sale. However, a buyer and seller in the same transaction can use attorneys from the same firm.
Some of the tasks real estate attorneys are qualified to perform include:
- Conducting a real estate closing
- Preparing and reviewing real estate documents
- Collecting and distributing escrow
- Helping amend a title or legal issue
- Transferring a deed for inherited or sold property
- Arranging loan documents for a mortgage
Do I need a real estate attorney?
There are a few factors to consider when deciding if you need a real estate attorney. First, some states require attorneys to be involved in real estate transactions. They may prepare and draft legal documents, examine and certify the title, or conduct closings. States regularly pass new legislation, and rules can vary by region within states, so make sure to speak to your agent to understand your state’s requirements.
Even if your state doesn’t require a real estate attorney, you may want to hire one to work with your agent to represent you during your real estate transaction. Many standard home sales likely won’t need a real estate attorney to be involved. However, it can give you peace of mind to have an attorney review your contract and documents, protect your interests, and handle any complex legal issues that may arise. Also, real estate attorneys can be helpful in non-standard transactions, such as short sales, estate sales, and bank-owned property, as well as buying property out of state or homes with structural issues.
How do I find a real estate attorney?
If you decide to have an attorney represent you when you’re buying or selling a property, you will want to find the one that’s right for you. There are a few ways to start your search:
- Asking friends, family, or coworkers for recommendations
- Asking your agent for a referral
- Utilizing your state’s Bar Association directory
- Using a legal review website
From there, you will want to make sure you fully understand the attorney’s background and how they can support you. Make sure you ask plenty of questions to gauge an attorney’s qualifications. Some common questions you may want to ask are:
- How long have you practiced real estate law?
- How much experience do you have in my type of transaction?
- How many residential transactions do you advise on each year?
- Who else will be working on my transaction?
- Do you charge a flat or hourly fee?
Once the offer is accepted, you may think everything else is a formality. However, the closing process has plenty of challenges. Use this guide to know what to expect.