Buying a new piece of real estate can be a complicated process whether you are a seasoned buyer or first-time homeowner. Because the process can be quite involved, it's smart to have a team of experts in your corner to guide you through the transaction. For most people this usually includes a real estate agent, a loan officer, or even a home inspector. But have you ever stopped to consider adding a real estate attorney? Real estate attorneys, also known as property lawyers or realtor attorneys, oversee property transactions to help mitigate your risk as a buyer (or seller) and help ensure your transaction goes smoothly from contract through closing. While hiring a real estate attorney may seem like a bit overkill, especially if you are already employing the services of other experts, the fact remains that hiring a real estate attorney can help you save thousands of dollars by preventing future problems with your purchase before they arise. In fact, some buyers may not have the choice whether or not to use a real estate attorney at closing. If you are considering buying a new house, a vacation home, or an investment property but are unsure what value a property lawyer can offer, here are a couple of things to consider before you get too far into the sales process.
Why Hire a Real Estate Attorney?
If you are buying a typical house across town and are already familiar with the neighborhood and market you are buying in, chances are hiring a real estate attorney may not be necessary. While the majority of basic transactions probably don’t warrant the full services of a real estate attorney hiring one can still be advantageous if you are seeking additional peace of mind or if one is required by state law. Where real estate attorneys truly shine is for transactions that are more involved than your run of the mill purchase. For example, if you are moving from out of town and are unfamiliar with the market or are purchasing real estate that may not be properly zoned, your transaction inherently involves additional risk. A property lawyer can help structure your offer to include additional provisions designed to protect you in an adverse event. Other situations where you might want to involve a real estate attorney include if a property has excessive deterioration or physical damage, purchases involving bank-owned real estate, or the purchase of an investment property where evicting the current tenants may be necessary.
If you think about it, when the seller accepts your offer to purchase their home you both are essentially creating a legal contract with all the clauses and contingencies one would expect with a legally binding document.
Is Hiring a Real Estate Attorney a Requirement?
In some states, you are required to have a real estate attorney at the closing. Nearly half of the states in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, require a property lawyer be part of your real estate transaction. While the list of states is subject to change, as new legislation becomes enacted, if you live in one of the following states you will probably be required to employ the services of real estate lawyer:
● Alabama ● Connecticut ● Delaware ● Florida ● Georgia ● Kansas ● Kentucky ● Maine ● Maryland ● Massachusetts ● Mississippi ● New Hampshire ● New Jersey ● New York ● North Dakota ● Pennsylvania ● Rhode Island ● South Carolina ● Vermont ● Virginia ● West Virginia
Choosing the Best Real Estate Attorney For You
Like any big purchase, it's important to do your research to make sure the attorney you choose to represent you is someone you feel comfortable with, has the legal and real estate acumen to advocate on your behalf, and who has past experience with the type of transaction you are trying to close.
Some factors to consider when searching for potential candidates are how long they have been practicing real estate law, how many similar transactions they have under their belt, and what services specifically are included in their fee.
It's also equally important to understand if your lawyer will be physically attending your closing or if that task will be delegated to an assistant, manager, or other closing agent.
Ultimately, make sure you take your time and properly vet whomever you choose to work with. You want to find the right attorney that can help you navigate all aspects of your deal from the initial negotiation and offer all the way through to the closing table.
Why Become a Real Estate Attorney?
Real estate attorneys help thousands of clients every year by making homeownership their reality. For many new attorneys initially interested in contract law may be interested in specializing as a real estate attorney. It provides the opportunity to hone your negotiation skills while also working with contracts including purchase and lease agreements.
Furthermore, there should be a steady need for real estate attorneys as mortgage rates remain, the housing market continues to churn, but more importantly because many states require the involvement of a property lawyer.
If you like navigating documents, resolving disputes, negotiating, or simply helping provide peace of mind to buyers about to make a life-changing financial decision, becoming a real estate attorney may just be the job for you.