Buying or selling a home is usually one of the biggest financial decisions you will make. It's essential you're careful to not lose money in the process and stay on the right side of the law.
Real estate attorneys can help buyers and sellers proceed with real estate transactions in a way that protects their interests. Apart from working with a real estate agent, a real estate lawyer can be one of the most valuable parts of your realty team.
Here are the answers to the most common questions about attorneys and lawyers in real estate.
Is there a difference between a real estate attorney vs. a lawyer?
A lawyer is a professional who has received an education in the legal field. Anyone who has passed law school is considered a lawyer in the United States. An attorney, on the other hand, is a lawyer who has passed the bar exam in a particular jurisdiction. That gives an attorney the ability to legally represent clients in a court of law.
Within real estate, there's usually no difference between using a real estate attorney or a lawyer. In most cases, you will only require the guidance of a lawyer to take certain decisions. It's very rare, especially in residential real estate, for anyone to require the representation of an attorney in legal proceedings.
Do I need a real estate attorney?
Whether or not you need to hire a real estate attorney depends on where you live. Certain states allow only attorneys to prepare sales contracts, carry out title searches, and so on.
In other states, hiring a real estate attorney is left to the discretion of the buyer or seller. If you feel like the transaction is complex (due to impending foreclosure, disclosure requirements, etc.) or there's a lot of money at stake, you can hire an attorney to make sure you're proceeding in a legally safe manner.
Be sure to research the real estate laws in your state.
How much does it cost to hire a real estate attorney?
Real estate attorneys set their rates by the hour. You can expect to pay anywhere between $150 to $300 per hour for the services of an attorney. The hourly pricing is used in cases where you hire an attorney to oversee a deal on the whole.
It is also possible to hire a real estate attorney to perform specific tasks, such as writing a sales contract or to answer some of your questions about a transaction. In that case, the attorney may charge a flat fee as opposed to an hourly price.
What do real estate attorneys do at closing?
There are attorneys who specialize in real estate closings. These professionals are known as real estate closing attorneys.
A real estate closing attorney will start by examining the property title. They will look for any restrictions, easements, or liens on the property to make sure that the seller is legally allowed to transfer the property to the buyer. Your attorney's examination of the title can help you get title insurance during this stage.
Your real estate attorney will also coordinate with the different parties involved in the transaction during closing. That includes the lender, surveyors, homeowners association, etc.
Can I buy a home without a realtor if I have a real estate attorney?
Buyers and sellers are not legally obligated to hire a realtor to complete a transaction. However, a real estate agent can provide guidance on nonlegal matters like market trends. But technically, it is possible to complete a real estate transaction without a realtor.
By the same token, some states don't require buyers and sellers to hire a real estate attorney. So you can complete the purchase of a home without hiring a real estate agent or an attorney. This can, however, leave you open to the consequences of overlooking important details in your contracts.
Can a real estate lawyer help with foreclosure?
Homeowners should hire a real estate attorney as soon as they are served with a pre-foreclosure notice. Attorneys who specialize in foreclosure proceedings are called real estate foreclosure defense attorneys.
A real estate attorney will provide you with the right guidance if your house is on the verge of being foreclosed on. They will let you know what foreclosure resolution options are available to you and which is the best for your situation.
Can a real estate attorney represent the buyer and seller?
A lawyer cannot represent both parties involved in a transaction if there is a conflict of interest. There's a conflict of interest whenever representing one client has a negative effect on the other client.
In real estate, however, it's possible for a lawyer to represent both the buyer and seller without a conflict of interest. A lawyer can provide adequate legal guidance to both parties without adversely affecting either one. So if the buyer and seller are open to the arrangement, the lawyer can have them both sign off on a Conflict Waiver.
That said, buyers and sellers should hire their own real estate attorneys whenever possible. This ensures that both parties have their interests represented exclusively without creating the possibility of a conflict for a single lawyer.
Clever Partner Agents can help you determine whether you need to hire a lawyer to safely purchase or sell your home. Our agents are well-connected in their local markets and can recommend the best real estate lawyers to clients.