What A Real Estate Attorney Can Do For You

Buying or selling a home can make you feel like you're on an emotional roller coaster. Searching for the perfect home with all the right features or desperately hoping to get an offer close to your asking price can lead you to daydream about hopes and wishes coming true. When it finally comes down to the actual transaction, reality can come down on you like a house full of bricks. Legally speaking, real estate can be complicated and hiring a real estate attorney can be the smartest decision you make all year. In this article, learn what real estate attorneys really do, why hiring an attorney is important for you and what can happen if you don't.

What Real Estate Attorneys Actually Do

Buying or selling property is not like buying or selling a used car. Real estate law can be very detailed and complicated. While your realtor can provide guidance, they are not specifically trained in the law.

Requirements for real estate legal services vary by state and even by regions within the state. Some areas require home buyers, sellers or both to be legally represented while others do not have specific stipulations regarding attorneys.

Regardless of the laws in your area, an attorney that specializes in real estate can help you by providing the following services:

  • Review your purchase contract. Your attorney will review the legalities of the purchase contract to ensure that your best interests are being met. They will make sure that you understand and agree to the terms of the contract before you sign it.
  • Coordinate the transaction process. Your attorney will coordinate the dates for attorney approval, home inspections, mortgage commitment and other aspects of the transaction with your lending agent, the other party's attorney and the realtors.
  • Review other important documents. Other documents that will be reviewed for accuracy and agreement include the deed, bills of sale for additional purchases of items like appliances, loan documents, surveys, the title and the title insurance policy.
  • Negotiate and make changes to your purchase contract. Typically, attorneys have the ability to make changes to legal language in purchase contracts, to void a purchase contract congruent with state laws and to negotiate addition expenses. These expenses might include unpaid property taxes, neighborhood association dues or utilities.

Your attorney will also attend the closing with you.

Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Attorney

Even if you are not legally required, hiring a real estate attorney will benefit you.

If you are buying a home, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you buying property that is bank owned or being sold through a short sale?
  • Is the property you want to buy part of an estate sale?
  • Are you buying property in an area known for adverse conditions and events such as in a flood zone, an area that is prone to tornadoes, is known to have high toxicity levels, etc.?
  • Could the property you want to buy have some structural issues?
  • Are you buying property in a another town or city?

If you are selling property, consider the following questions:

  • Is your property in a state of distress?
  • Are you selling property that you inherited or were named the executor for?
  • Do you have a history of judgments or liens?
  • Are you trying to sell the property with a co-owner who isn't cooperative?
  • Are you concerned that something may go seriously wrong based on what you know about the property?

An affirmative answer to any of these questions suggests that hiring an attorney is crucial to your success. While realtors are trained to understand contracts and receive continuing education regarding ethics, distressed property sales and other basic real estate legalities, they do not have the experience or expertise that a real estate attorney has.

In essence, a real estate attorney can offer support and guidance regarding any legal matter pertaining to your real estate transaction. Perhaps most importantly, an attorney can protect you from legal consequences such as lawsuits and fines. A real estate attorney protects you and all other parties and ensures that your transaction is legal.

What Can Happen if You Don't Have a Real Estate Attorney

If you're not concerned about lawsuits when buying or selling real estate, you should be. While there are never any guarantees, a real estate attorney can decrease your chances of being sued.

You can be sued under the following circumstances:

  • Failure to disclose certain information, such as defects of the property or judgments against the property.
  • Failure to clear the title to the property.
  • Failing to file appropriate documents at state and county levels.
  • Improperly transferring a deed.
  • Failing to file proper building permits on wetlands.
  • Failure to properly register a business that is purchasing property.

Making these mistakes can result in lawsuits, fines, having income or estate taxes levied against both the buyer and seller or being required to rebuild structures, among others. Real estate attorneys are well versed in securing clear titles and disclosing information properly.

Buying or selling a home can be complicated and stressful. A real estate attorney will reduce your risk of being sued and will ensure a smooth, stress-free transaction that adheres to all legal requirements in your area.