Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney?

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real estate attorneyIn many simple home-buying scenarios, a real estate attorney is not strictly necessary. If an attorney is not required by law in your state, and both the buyer and seller have previously bought and sold homes, you might not need a real estate attorney. If you are a first-time buyer or seller, or your situation is at all complicated, a real estate attorney can help keep you from making a potentially costly mistake. Many real estate law firms, such as Roach law firm in New York, represent both buyers and sellers of residential and commercial properties.

Here a few scenarios in which it is recommended that you hire a real estate attorney.

  • Legal Requirements: Some states require real estate attorneys to be involved in every home sale. As of 2015, an attorney must be present at closing for home sales in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York, as well as northern New Jersey. If the transaction takes place in one of these states, hiring an attorney is not optional.
  • Complex Issues: If the sale includes any sort of unusual circumstances, a real estate attorney is the best person to guide you through the legal ramifications. For example, there might be an existing tenant in a mother-in-law cottage on the property, or you might want to negotiate a rent-to-own or “rent with option to buy” contract. Real estate lawyers are highly recommended in unusual situations, as they can walk you through the step by step process involved in drafting and enforcing unusual real estate contracts.
  • Personalized Contract Language: Most home sale contracts are boilerplate, which means that the legal language is identical from contract to contract. However, standardized language does not generally cover all contingencies. For example, if you are the buyer, you might find out shortly before closing that additions to the home are not up to code, or a termite inspection might show an extensive hidden problem. If you are the seller, you might find that the buyer wants to back out without cause or wants you to pay for additional repairs. A real estate attorney can help both parties reach an equitable resolution, and rewrite the contract to reflect the new agreement.
  • Document Review: A real estate attorney is extremely familiar with the documentation involved in buying or selling a home. If a document is intentionally or unintentionally changed during the process, a competent real estate lawyer can spot it and get it corrected right away. In addition, title searches often unearth potential problems in the home’s history of which neither the buyer nor the seller was aware. A real estate attorney has seen these issues before and knows how to negotiate them. Title problems are often handled at closing, so it is vital to have your lawyer present at that time.

What’s the difference between a real estate attorney and a closing attorney?

Both closing attorneys and real estate attorneys can handle your closing needs. In the states that require an attorney for real estate transactions, a closing attorney will suffice. However, they are not exactly the same.

  • Closing Attorney: A closing attorney is a specialist who focuses on real estate closings. He or she will appear at the closing, review all documents related to the sale, resolve any title issues that arise, and answer any questions that you have about the contract.
  • Real Estate Attorney: A real estate attorney also handles issues related to closings. In addition, he or she is more of a generalist. This type of lawyer can guide you through the entire process, draft contracts that address unusual circumstances, and help you resolve any legal issues that arise during your home buying or selling journey.

Keep in mind that your real estate attorney works for you. While others involved in the process, such as real estate agents, have a vested interest in seeing that the sale goes through, your attorney has no personal stake in the matter. He or she will remain level headed, calm, and capable of making the negotiations that are in your best interest.

Roach Law Firm prides itself on representing the best interests of our clients, and will work hard to ensure that your real estate transaction goes as smoothly as possible. The firm’s founder and leader, attorney Peter T. Roach, has been practicing real estate law since 1979. He received the New York Metro Area’s prestigious Real Estate Super Lawyer distinction every year from 2008 through 2013, and has consistently received an AV Peer Review for excellence in both skill and integrity. If you are buying or selling a home or commercial property, contact Roach Law Firm today.

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16 Comments

  1. Kaathy says:

    In Illinois we don’t have to have an attorney and in most of our real estate transactions, my husband and I have not used one. Between the bank and the title company, the legal requirements are pretty much taken care of. We have used an attorney, however, when we bought a building lot directly from the developer, as well as when we entered into a contract to sell a rental property on an installment sale basis. We didn’t want anything to come back to haunt us a few years from now.

  2. Thank you for including where real estate lawyers are really necessary. As a first time buyer I wasn’t sure where it was appropriate. Seeing that I am looking for a house in Massachusetts its good to know I will need a lawyer at least for the closing. If I do end up buying more properties I do know I’ll use a lawyer for those issues.

  3. I actually had no idea that some states require there to be an attorney present when closing a real estate sale. Though my state isn’t on that list, I still think it’d be a good idea to involve a real estate attorney when you’re trying to buy or sell a home. It seems like that would be the best way for either party to avoid any future legal issues.

  4. I’ve never lived in a state that requires an attorney in every home sale. This summer I am moving to Massachusetts so I will need to hire one to buy a home. What is the average cost of using a real estate attorney?

  5. Thanks for pointing out the need for a real estate attorney in these situations. The value of an attorney is really shown when one is needed to clean up a land deal that is made without one.

  6. Thank you for this article about why I need a real estate attorney. I always thought lawyers were only optional when it came to real estate, but now I see that it would be much easier on me if I get a lawyer to help me with the real selling process. Especially with the complex issues like the article points out. There are many things that I don’t know about real estate and a lawyer would really help me out with those things.

  7. Thanks for explaining the difference between real estate and closing lawyers. I’ve been having some complex issues buying a house and I think I need to find a professional to help me out with the legal jargon and negotiations. Do you have any suggestions on where to find real estate lawyers?

  8. Before reading this I wasn’t aware of the differences between a closing attorney and a real estate attorney. I’m getting ready to make an offer and it had been suggested to me to get a real estate attorney, but before I did I wanted to know what I’d be getting myself into – for that, thanks for the post!

  9. I don’t live in any of the states that require an attorney before closing on a house. However, it does sound like it is probably a good idea to get one anyway. I won’t pretend that all of the documents needed to buy a house are not confusing. So, just having a lawyer there for help understanding the documents would be nice. However, what kind of home history problems would the real estate attorney look for?

  10. I like how you suggested, “Keep in mind that your real estate attorney works for you.” I like that because sometimes when I am looking to hire some help I feel it’s the other way around. If I remember that the attorney is to help us get into our home, I think our relationship and the way we communicate will be more efficient. We haven’t looked into many options yet but we do know we want to be in a home by the end of the year. I think hiring help is our best chance of accomplishing our goal. Thanks for the advice.

  11. April Cook says:

    I didn’t realize that it was required to have a real estate attorney in some states. Thank you for the distinction between a closing and real estate attorney. I’m thinking of moving this summer, and this information will come in handy. Thanks!

  12. Thanks for this helpful post on real estate lawyers. I actually didn’t know that some states required real estate attorneys to be involved in every home sale. If I ever buy a home in one of those areas I will now know that having an attorney is not optional. I like what you said about complex issues. I think it would help to have an attorney if the situation is rushed or complicated at all. Thanks for the help!

  13. Thanks for this helpful post on real estate attorneys. I like what you put about complex issues. I am planning on investing some money into real estate, so I know that there will likely be some complex issues that could come up. I will be sure to hire a real estate attorney to help me out, thanks for the help!

  14. It makes sense that you would want to get a property lawyer if you’re selling a home. It’s a good way to ensure that everything is being handled properly! You wouldn’t want to finish the deal and find out you got less money than you were supposed to.

  15. I had no idea that a real estate attorney was mandatory in a couple of states. I was actually planning on accepting a job offering in South Carolina this year. If so, it looks like I’ll need to find a real estate lawyer to buy a home.

  16. Hi,
    Good information about Real Estate Attorney….thanks for your interest in giving such a good information. Keep up good work

    Best Regards
    Grandview Law Group LLP

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