When you are buying a home, you might need a real estate attorney. This could be necessary for your state’s requirements, or if there are possible issues with the purchase.
A lawyer for real estate will have the job of making sure the property is legally transferred from the seller to the buyer. They will deal with the legal documents, ensuring they are correct, and protecting your interests.
We will look at the role a lawyer plays in a property purchase, and why you might need one. It could be one of the best investments you’ll make when buying real estate.
What does a lawyer for real estate actually do?
A real estate lawyer specializes in “real property” transactions. For the most part, real estate and real property are considered the same thing; land and buildings.
When you buy a home, it doesn’t normally end up in court, but a real estate attorney is still very useful. They will check documents, offer to purchase contracts, and agreements made with the seller. The attorney will also review contracts and documents from your lender.
When the closing date arrives, they might also attend to ensure things run smoothly. They could do this in person or via conference call.
Along with these duties, your attorney for real estate might also conduct title searches and arrange title insurance. These title checks should reveal any liens and other outstanding claims on the property.
If documentation of money transfers is required, they can also provide that. And if something goes wrong during the transaction, they will be on hand to deal with it.
Do you need to hire an attorney for real estate?
A large part of this decision depends on your location and the laws involved in a real estate transaction. In many cases, your real estate agent, or a notary, can do the things a lawyer would be required for in other states.
Some states require you to retain the services of a lawyer during the purchase, these include:
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
In some states, the law requires a real estate attorney to provide a title opinion. This opinion shows that they believe there isn’t anything preventing the transaction’s success. These states include:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
Even if you are in a state where this is not required, there are good reasons to hire an attorney. If the purchase is more complicated like if part of a neighbor’s home crosses the property line, a real estate lawyer will make sure your interests are protected.
An excellent real estate attorney will also make sure a home buyer asks for extensions on contingencies so their earnest money deposit does not become at risk.
When a lawyer is required to deal with closing, as is the case in some states, they won’t be acting on your behalf. They are considered neutral to ensure the transaction is completed correctly.
If you are required to have or decide you want, an attorney to deal with the real estate transaction, their fees will normally be added to your closing costs.
While your real estate agent might recommend a reliable attorney, it’s never a bad idea to check online feedback as well. You also might know someone who has recently used a lawyer for real estate that you can ask.
Friends and family who have recently been involved in a real estate transaction are also good resources.
But before you hire the attorney, check their credentials with the state’s bar association to avoid problems. Having a legal representative in your corner is essential, especially with something as significant as a home purchase.
Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people buy and sell MetroWest Massachusetts real estate for the past 35 years. Bill is the owner and founder of Maximum Real Estate Exposure. For the past decade, he has been one of the top RE/MAX REALTORS® in New England.