Real estate attorney costs can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. A typical home closing is usually $750–1,250, according to David Reischer, real estate attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com.
Real estate attorney costs can vary based on the services you require, your location, the type of property, and the complexity of your situation.
Attorneys often charge a flat fee for specific services, such as a real estate closing, title search, or document preparation. But they may also charge an hourly fee ($150–600 per hour), especially if the transaction is complex or litigation is involved.
If you have a straightforward real estate transaction, you may not need a real estate attorney’s services. But an attorney can provide peace of mind. They can help you avoid legal headaches in complex transactions involving disputes, title issues, homes needing repairs, and more.
What does a real estate attorney do?
Real estate attorneys handle the legal aspects of transferring property from a seller to a buyer. They can:
- Prepare legal documents for a sale and title transfer
- Review contracts to ensure they comply with the law
- Negotiate contract terms
- Do a title search and due diligence
- Resolve disputes between a buyer and seller
- Attend the closing
- Explain what a buyer or seller is agreeing to before they sign any documents
“Real estate attorneys are like your translator through the deal and someone who can protect you from unnecessary risks,” says Jack Duffley, a real estate attorney at Duffley Law. “They’re also a great resource for asking questions through the process.”
Real estate lawyers are licensed to practice real estate law. They have specialized knowledge of property laws and regulations for the states they practice in.
Their responsibilities might vary depending on whether they're hired by a seller, a buyer, or a title or mortgage company.
What does a real estate attorney do for a seller?
For a seller, a real estate attorney can:
- Draft or review the real estate contract
- Negotiate the purchase contract
- Give advice based on the signed contract and applicable state law before closing, including drafting documents to resolve any major issues
- Complete a title search and resolve title issues
- Draft or review the deed and other transaction documents
- Prepare a report of transaction fees you’ll pay at closing
- Assist with closing, including ensuring you understand all documents
What does a real estate attorney do for a buyer?
For a buyer, a real estate attorney can:
- Resolve any property-related issues, like zoning complications
- Review title documents to ensure the legal ownership of the property
- Complete a title search and assist if problems like liens arise
- Draft the sales and purchase agreement
- Explain all documents before you sign
Real estate attorney vs. realtor
Real estate attorneys are trained to ensure your property transaction meets your state’s legal requirements. They focus solely on protecting your legal interests. Your attorney can negotiate real estate contracts on your behalf and make sure you fully understand the terms.
Real estate agents are experts at the home selling and buying process, including tasks like marketing, preparing homes to sell, and helping buyers find potential homes.
“While a real estate agent may be able to do some tasks of an attorney, such as preparing home contracts, only an attorney can offer legal advice to a client about the specifics of the transactions,” says David Reischer, real estate attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com.
Depending on your circumstances, you may require both a real estate agent and a lawyer when selling or buying a home.
If you're worried about the costs of hiring a real estate attorney, one solution may be to work with a low commission realtor.
For example, Clever Real Estate can connect you with a dedicated, full-service agent for just 1.5% — half the typical listing commission. You can compare top-performing realtors in your area with no obligation to move forward.
Clever can help you keep thousands more in your pocket without sacrificing the support of a traditional agent.
With Clever, you'll:
✅ Sell your house for only 1.5% in listing fees
✅ Work with a local realtor from top brokers, like RE/MAX and Sotheby's
✅ Get all the service and support you'd expect from a traditional agent
Clever's service is 100% free, with zero obligation. You can interview as many agents as you like, or walk away at any time. Enter your zip code to find a top local agent today!
When to hire a real estate attorney
In some cases, you may need a real estate lawyer to sell your home. It depends on your mortgage lender’s requirements and where you live.
But you may want to hire an attorney even if it’s not mandatory. A real estate attorney can help with complex transactions, ensuring you follow all legal requirements. And they can look out for your best interests.
Here are some circumstances when you should consider hiring a real estate attorney.
State law requires you to use a real estate lawyer
States have different definitions of the "practice of law.” What a real estate agent can do in one state, an attorney might have to do in another state.
Some states require a real estate lawyer to provide a title opinion, while others require them to be present at closing (sometimes called a "closing attorney").
In these states, the state or supreme court determined that the legal concepts in a real estate transaction may be too hard for buyers and sellers to understand without an attorney to explain them.
Which states require a real estate attorney?
These states require a real estate attorney or closing attorney to handle aspects of the transaction or provide a title opinion:
Real estate laws can change. Check with your realtor to see if your state requires a real estate lawyer.
Your mortgage lender requires a real estate attorney
Sometimes a mortgage lender requires a real estate lawyer or closing attorney to be part of the buying process. This ensures the closing and documentation meet the state’s legal requirements.
You're buying or selling without an agent
When buying without an agent or selling a house by owner, you handle the tasks a real estate agent normally does, like completing paperwork. You may want to hire a real estate lawyer to ensure the documents follow all legal requirements.
You’re dealing with a foreclosure or short sale
For a foreclosure or short sale (selling for less than you owe on your mortgage), you may need specialized legal advice from an experienced attorney.
A lawyer can help you by:
- Gathering documents to prove financial hardship
- Representing you at a foreclosure auction
- Assisting with short sale documents
- Advocating for you
You need to solve a documentation dispute or title issue
A closing attorney or real estate lawyer can help identify issues early on and promptly resolve them.
If not caught early on, some issues can lead to significant, time-consuming complications. These issues include document disputes, missing information, and legal barriers like a lien on a title or disclosure issue.
In some instances, these problems can delay your closing or even result in your contract being terminated.
Brad Banias, a founding partner of Banias Law and Pro Se Pro, recalls one of these situations. “Everything was smooth until an old lien on the property surfaced, which the real estate agent missed. In hindsight, the client realized the value of a real estate lawyer in sparing time, money, and stress.”
You need help mediating a contract dispute
When a dispute arises, you may need a qualified expert to help sort out the issue. An attorney can act as a mediator between the buyer and seller, providing both sides with an unbiased legal view of the situation. They can clarify the current contract, assist with negotiations, and even help with litigation.
Your home has structural damage
Every state has its own guidelines about disclosing structural issues. If your home needs repairs, a real estate attorney can provide guidance on what you legally need to disclose to reduce your risk of litigation.
You’re selling a home while going through a divorce
During a divorce, a real estate attorney can help you meet your state’s property division laws.
Whether you split the proceeds or have a buyout, the attorney can help you navigate:
- The property’s deed
- Divorce agreement terms
- The prenuptial agreement (if applicable)
Real estate attorney costs
Most attorneys charge an hourly rate or a fixed fee for specific services.
If you pay by the hour, it's hard to predict the total cost, since you won't know how much time your attorney will need. But you can set a limit on the number of hours.
If you pay a flat fee, you pay one fixed fee regardless of the hours the lawyer spends on your case. There are no hidden fees, and you know the full cost from the outset. But a lawyer may not be able to offer a fixed rate for complicated situations.
The total cost varies by:
- Location (rural areas are often less expensive than urban ones)
- Required services
- Transaction complexity
- The attorney’s experience level
Also, some real estate attorneys may require a retainer (like a down payment) up front.
How much do real estate attorneys charge to sell a house?
A straightforward residential transaction can cost $500–2,000. The rate may be more depending on your location and whether it's a fixed or hourly rate. More complex situations can be several thousand dollars
Hourly rates can be $150–600 per hour, depending on your location and the lawyer's experience level.
How much is a real estate attorney for closing?
For a simple home closing, real estate attorney fees can be $750–1,250, depending on location.
More complex situations or attorney in-house closings (no title company) are usually more, around $1,500–3,000.
If you only need help drafting or reviewing a simple contract, the price may be less (around $400–600). This cost doesn't include services like negotiation or help with closing.
Is a real estate attorney cheaper than a realtor?
For a simple residential transaction, a real estate attorney can be cheaper than a realtor, especially if you pay a fixed rate.
That said, lawyers and realtors provide different expertise when selling or buying a home. If you just need legal help, a lawyer may be sufficient. If you need help navigating the whole selling or buying process, paying for a real estate agent is likely worth it.
How to find a real estate attorney
To find a good real estate attorney, you can:
- Ask for recommendations from your real estate agent
- Ask for recommendations from friends or family who have recently bought or sold a home
- Browse your state’s bar association directory for real estate attorneys in your area
Before hiring an attorney, research your options. See which lawyers have the qualifications, experience, and specialized knowledge your transaction requires. Read online reviews from trusted sites, and verify the lawyers' state licenses.
After some initial research, contact your top choices. Most attorneys offer a free consultation. We recommend you meet with about three lawyers to find the right one.
When interviewing an attorney, ask about their:
- Qualifications, including licenses
- Familiarity with local laws and regulations
- Fees, including if they charge hourly or a flat fee and if they require a retainer agreement
- Communication style
Also, ask for references to better understand the attorney's success rate and work style.
Do you need a realtor to buy or sell a house?
No, you don't need a realtor to buy or sell a house. Instead, you can sell your home yourself, called "for sale by owner" (FSBO). As a FSBO seller, you complete the tasks a real estate agent normally does. These tasks include pricing and marketing your home, negotiating with buyers, and completing paperwork. If you don’t want to sell FSBO, you can still save on realtor fees by using a low-commission real estate agent who offers full service.
Who pays real estate attorney fees at closing?
In states that require a lawyer, real estate attorney fees are generally included in the closing costs. Whether the buyer or seller pays depends on how closing costs are established in the contract. But if you hire your own attorney, you pay them.
Is it cheaper to hire a real estate attorney than a realtor?
A real estate attorney can be cheaper than a realtor for simple residential transactions. But real estate attorneys and realtors offer different expertise. A real estate attorney only addresses legal issues, while a real estate agent can help you with the whole buying or selling process.