10 Takeaways: What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

Posted by Ryan Fitzgerald on Friday, April 9th, 2021 at 12:24pm.

Everything You Need to Know About Real Estate Attorneys

What does a Real Estate Attorney do? A home purchase normally begins with people viewing homes online and ends with a Real Estate Attorney helping everyone sign on the dotted line!

If you are buying or selling a home you may want to work with a Real Estate Attorney and many states even require a Real Estate Attorney to be part of the closing process (which you can read more about in section 2). This is because there are many laws surrounding buying and selling a home and a Real Estate Attorney will make sure you meet all of the legal requirements to have a successful real estate transaction.


What does a Real Estate Attorney Do? 10 Things that Real Estate Attorneys Do for Both Buyers and Sellers during a home purchase!

For Buyers: One of the things Real Estate Attorneys do is protect you against a bad investment during a transaction where costs are high and can get out of hand. When you go under contract a Real Estate Attorney Especially the closing costs which can add on a lot to the immediate cost of owning a home.

For Sellers: keeping closing costs low on your home sale can also be a big priority. You want to make sure that you are receiving your full investment in the home you are selling. But one cost that is often not worth cutting is that of hiring a Real Estate Attorney.

When you go under contract on a home a Real Estate Attorney is one of the next people you will contact for help and your Real Estate Agent should have great recommendations for you. While your home is in a pending status on the MLS you will have the opportunity to let your Real Estate Attorney work for you by conducting the proper research on the home to make sure the title is clear. Let's take a closer look at what exactly a Real Estate Attorney does and why you may need one.

1. What Is a Real Estate Attorney?

Real estate law covers all legal issues regarding the sale and purchase of real property and will be especially important in helping you with your due diligence. Real property refers to land, anything growing on that land and all structures and objects attached to or built on the land. It can even encompass fixtures and appliances that are attached to the structures. Real estate law is also concerned with any legal issues that arise around real property.

A Real Estate Attorney is a lawyer who is specially trained in the handling of issues involving real property. Some of the items covered by real estate law include zoning laws that apply to real property, deeds, estate planning, property taxes, and titles. 

A Real Estate Attorney may specialize in specific aspects of real property law. Some may work specifically with zoning laws while others concentrate on tax laws.

Real Estate Attorneys are licensed by the state in which they practice. This is important because real property laws vary by state and even municipality. It is critical that your Real Estate Attorney is familiar with all regulations that concern the relevant property. 

A Black Real Estate Attorney handing keys to older home buyers who are purchasing a house and used a Real Estate Attorney to help keep them protected

2. Is a Real Estate Attorney Required?

Whether a Real Estate Attorney is required by law depends on the state. Many states do require that a real estate lawyer be hired to oversee the transaction and to make certain that all documents and contracts are in proper legal order. The states that legally require a lawyer to be present at closing are Delaware, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Georgia, West Virginia, and South Carolina. The states that require an Attorney to certify the title are North Dakota, South Dakota, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Oklahoma. Four additional states do not legally require a lawyer to be involved in the closing process, but it is the norm that one almost always is hired. These states are New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Ohio. 

Another time when it is important to hire a Real Estate Attorney is when there is a more complex situation in the sale of the property or unusual aspects to the contract. Regardless of whether a Real Estate Attorney is legally required, it is often in your best interest to make certain your legal interests are well-protected by hiring a Real Estate Attorney.

3. Who Does a Real Estate Attorney Represent?

A Real Estate Attorney can be hired to represent the buyer or the seller. If it is your first time buying a home this will all be a new experience for you and a Real Estate Attorney will be a great resource for you! If it's your first time selling a home then you will find a Real Estate Attorney equally as valuable as they will prepare everything you need to sell your home. Real Estate Attorneys can also be hired to represent a landlord's interests or even a tenant's. In the sale of property, a Real Estate Attorney may even be hired to protect the interests of the mortgage lender. 

4. What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do for the Buyer?

When a buyer hires a real estate lawyer, the lawyer will often attend the closing with the buyer. The closing is when the actual sale happens and all money is paid. Before the closing, the lawyer will prepare the necessary documents, which is one of their most important functions. The lawyer is specially trained to make certain that all documents are legally correct. A Real Estate Attorney will work closely with your Real Estate Agent and your mortgage lender to ensure you have everything you need.

In addition to this important task, a real estate lawyer will help to ascertain that the title search and funds transfer are completed properly. These are two of the most basic aspects of purchasing real property, and when it comes down to making the largest purchase of your life, it's a good idea to make sure it happens correctly. 

It doesn't matter what type of property you are buying the Real Estate Attorney will know how to handle your unique situation whether it's a single-family home, a condo, or any type of real estate. Oftentimes a Real Estate Attorney will advise you on things like a survey so you know where your property lines are when buying real estate so that you know if there are any encroachments on your property. They will be there on closing day with you to ensure you're signing everything and purchasing the home legally.

A Real Estate Attorney who is closing on the property with her home buyers in their new home

5. What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do for the Seller?

Hiring a Real Estate Attorney can also benefit sellers. While you may have become accustomed to relying on the contracts prepared by your Real Estate Agent, an Agent is only able to use generalized forms. A Real Estate Attorney can prepare contracts and addendums that are specific to your situation, making certain your interests are fully looked after. A great Real Estate Attorney can be instrumental when going through a divorce.

If the seller hires a Real Estate Attorney, they will make certain all the paperwork is completed properly, from the initial contract through the final title transfer and closing. 

6. What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do for the Mortgage Lender?

In instances where a mortgage lender opts to hire a Real Estate Attorney, then the Attorney will always oversee the closing. The mortgage lender does not actually cover the cost of their Real Estate Attorney. Whether the buyer or seller is responsible for the fee is based on the negotiations in the contract. They are not normally responsible for paying the appraiser because the mortgage lender will likely require those funds up front prior to the appraisal.

A great Real Estate Attorney can also protect you during a home inspection from any major problems that may be found or even if there are bugs in the house that may cause damage.

The Real Estate Attorney will likely play a role in assisting with the down payment and earnest money funds in the transaction, relaying this information to the Agent, the buyer, the lender, and the seller along the way.

7. What Are the Important Issues a Real Estate Attorney Can Help With?

A Real Estate Attorney can prove invaluable in performing certain important tasks. 

Real Estate Property Tax

How property taxes are set can be quite complex, and varies by state as well as by municipality. The tax rate is based on the overall home value, and this is calculated as a percentage of the combined land value, site value and improvements value. 

Estate Planning

Leaving behind real property after your death functions differently than leaving money or other assets. It is important to make sure that your property goes where you would like it to, and that is where estate planning comes in. Hiring a Real Estate Attorney will allow you to make certain that your real property is handled the way you desire in case an owner becomes incapacitated or dies. 

Zoning

There are numerous local laws that apply to real property. This may include everything from regulations about the size and types of structures that may be built on land to environmental laws that pertain to privately owned property. A real estate lawyer should be an expert in zoning laws and can help you learn about how these laws will affect the purchase or sale of the property. 

Property Deeds

A property deed is a written statement that must be created in a legally correct manner. The property deed must grant that the seller has the ability to transfer the property while the buyer must receive it. The deed must also properly describe the property which is being transferred. 

Title

A title includes all the rights which an owner has that come with the property which they have purchased. It is also the formal document that is transferred from the seller to the buyer and constitutes the final sale of the property. Some of the aspects covered by the title include rights regarding easement access, partitioning, exclusive possession, and use. This is the piece of paper that proves a person owns a piece of property, and it is important that it be created properly. 

Additional Documents

A Real Estate Attorney can also assist with numerous other documents regarding all aspects of the sale of real estate. These include purchase agreements, mortgage contracts, transfer of title documents, and many other affidavits and notarized documents that are involved with real estate contracts. 

Land Disputes

Unfortunately, some real estate issues require a court case. In these instances, a Real Estate Attorney is necessary to guide you through the process and to take charge of your case. In cases where there are title disputes, issues with contract enforcement, or general land disputes, a Real Estate Attorney is needed to look out for your best interests. 

Rental Properties

For those who are interested in renting out the property they own, a Real Estate Attorney can also serve an important purpose for landlords. From the leasing documents to eviction proceedings, a Real Estate Attorney can prepare the necessary paperwork. 

Making a Complex Situation Simpler

There are many technical terms when it comes to the sale of real property. And it is critical both that all of these terms are used properly in any legal documents, and also that you fully understand how these terms will affect you and the property which you own. 

By hiring a qualified lawyer you are both ensuring that all documents are prepared properly from a legal standpoint, but you are also hiring someone who can help explain to you what it all means in a way that you can understand. 

A Real Estate Attorney sitting at the closing table in a suit as the money is exchanged for the home

8. What Are the Risks of Not Using a Real Estate Attorney?

If you live in a state where a lawyer is not legally required and your mortgage lender does not require one, you may opt to forgo hiring a Real Estate Attorney during the purchase or sale of the property. However, doing so does leave you vulnerable on several fronts. First, you run the risk of having documents prepared incorrectly. This could lead to huge legal ramifications. Imagine purchasing a property, and transferring funds, only to find out months or even years later that your title does not properly name you as an owner of the property. That can lead to a lot of stress as well as financial losses in having to hire a lawyer later to fix the issue. 

Additionally, failure to hire a Real Estate Attorney can leave you open to lawsuits from which you could have been protected by having a lawyer looking out for your interests from the beginning. This is true of both buyers and sellers. A lawyer is specially trained to catch details and legal inconsistencies that you and your Real Estate Agent are likely to miss. 

By hiring a lawyer to aid you in the purchase or sale of your home, you are likely to save yourself money in the long run by avoiding unnecessary issues. 

9. How Much Does a Real Estate Attorney Cost?

The cost of a Real Estate Attorney varies and is based on several factors. The rates will vary by state and locale, and also depending on how experienced the Attorney is. Additionally, the fee will be based on what services the lawyer provides for you.

For paying a Real Estate Attorney that has been mandated by the mortgage lender, the amount of money required from the buyer and seller is based on how the closing costs responsibilities are negotiated. 

For a Real Estate Attorney that has been specifically hired by the buyer or the seller to look out for their own interests, the cost will either be charged as a flat fee or an hourly rate. In general, a Real Estate Attorney will charge from $150-$350 an hour. As a flat fee, a lawyer might charge in the range of $500-$1500 to oversee a home closing, although they may set their rate based on the purchase price of the property. 

10. What Is the Best Way to Find a Real Estate Attorney?

When hiring a Real Estate Attorney, it is important to hire one who is qualified and experienced. It is critical that they are knowledgeable in their field, as well as about all local issues pertaining to the property in question. 

One of the best ways to find a good Real Estate Attorney is through recommendations from friends, acquaintances, or family members who have recently purchased or sold a home. Make certain that they were happy with the services provided, and if so, considering giving who they used a call. 

If you don't know anyone who has recently had a positive experience with a real estate lawyer, then online reviews are another place to look. There are many legal websites that offer reviews of lawyers based on location, and can even let you know more about fees. Checking with your state's bar directory can also give you a list of lawyers in your area, which can provide a good place to start.

Real Estate Attorneys - Your First and Best Line of Defense

A good Real Estate Attorney is something to treasure and never let go of! Whether you're buying new construction homes, a family member's house, luxury homes, or even a houseboat, you will want a Real Estate Attorney! They will save you thousands of dollars when you least expect it and that is almost as good as the number of headaches they will save you in your home purchase. Without a Real Estate Attorney our job as Realtors would be much more difficult and we appreciate having them on our team during a transaction whether we are working with a buyer or a seller. Our clients absolutely love the Attorneys we work with and we look forward to helping you connect with our other great vendors during the purchase or sale of your home!

Connect with us for any help you may need when buying or selling a home, we'd love to chat with you. 


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Ryan Fitzgerald Raleigh RealtyHi there! My name is Ryan Fitzgerald, and I have a passion for everything real estate! My goal is to help you learn more about real estate through our Real Estate Blog whether it's the best places to live, move to or invest in real estate! Hopefully, you enjoyed the above blog post and it found a way to provide help or value to you. When you're ready to buy or sell a home of your own please let us know here at uphomes.com as we partner with only the best Realtors® all across the country. Also - Please feel free to join the conversation by dropping us a comment below... We love comments!

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