The purchase of a home is likely to be the most significant investment you'll ever make in your life. You should think about hiring a real estate lawyer in addition to hiring a real estate agent to help you negotiate the transaction. A real estate lawyer will help guide you through the legal process. Property law is the focus of the practice of real estate attorneys, who handle everything from transactions to the resolution of disputes between clients.

What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

Real Estate Lawyers: An Overview

There are a number of states that mandate the presence of a real estate attorney during the closing process. Even if your state does not mandate that you have one, you should still consider hiring a real estate attorney to represent your interests. At the time of the closing, a real estate attorney will act as a representative for your interests. They will look over all of the paperwork in advance and provide feedback on any issues or omissions that they find with the documentation.

Although some real estate attorneys charge a flat rate for their services, the vast majority of real estate attorneys base their fees on an hourly rate. Your attorney will be straightforward with you about it.

At the time of closing on a property transaction, a real estate attorney will either prepare or review all of the documents that need to be signed by the buyer and seller.

The closing takes place after that, and the attorney is there to represent the interests of either the buyer or the seller.

The regulation of real estate transactions falls under the purview of state and local governments.

What Real Estate Law Covers

The practice of real estate law encompasses the buying and selling of real property, which includes both the land and any buildings that are located on it. Additionally, it addresses any legal concerns that may arise regarding anything that is attached to the property or structures, such as appliances and fixtures.

Real estate attorneys are trained to ensure that all necessary steps are taken when purchasing or selling a piece of property. They may also be concerned with the manner in which the usage of the property is zoned. Deeds, property taxes, estate planning, and zoning are some of the topics that fall under the purview of real estate law.

Laws pertaining to real estate can differ from one state and local government to the next. Attorneys are required to hold a license to practice law in the state where the transaction will take place, and they are also required to remain current on any state or local developments that may have an effect on a transaction.

The Attorney's Responsibilities

Real estate attorneys handle transactions involving "real property." Real property is synonymous with real estate, which consists of land and fixed, permanent structures.

For the majority of homebuyers, purchasing real estate does not require court appearances. Instead, a real estate attorney may prepare or review all documents associated with your home purchase, such as the contract, any additional agreements made with the seller, documents from your lender, and title and transfer documents. If you employ a real estate attorney, he or she may also attend the closing in person or virtually.

Sometimes, real estate attorneys handle additional aspects of the home purchase, such as title searches and title insurance, to ensure that the property has no outstanding claims or liens. They may also provide documentation of the transfer of funds to the seller and lender, or act as a third party to facilitate the transaction.

Obviously, a real estate attorney can also provide assistance if a problem that could delay the sale arises.

A real estate attorney has the resources necessary to draught and review documents relating to purchase agreements, mortgage documents, title documents, and transfer documents, among other real estate-related documents.

When hired to handle a transaction involving real estate, an attorney will always be present at the closing with the buyer. At the closing, the funds are exchanged, and the title is handed over to the new owner. The purpose of the attorney is to ensure that the transfer is legal, that it will be binding, and that it is in the client's best interests.

During the process of purchasing real estate, the real estate attorney and his or her staff may be responsible for preparing documents, writing title insurance policies, conducting title searches on the property, and managing the transfer of funds for the purchase of the property. If the purchase is going to be financed, it is the responsibility of the attorney to handle the necessary paperwork, such as the federal HUD-1 form. Documentation for the buyer's lender pertaining to the form and any related transfers of funds.

In the event of a dispute regarding real estate, whether it be regarding the chain of title, problems with lot lines, or other issues involving contracts, the attorney will work to find a solution.

When a dispute regarding real estate ends up in court, a real estate attorney can also provide legal representation for either the buyer or the seller of the property in question. The real estate attorney investigates the situation by gathering facts from both parties and then works to mediate a settlement between them. To work through the details of this transaction, it may be necessary to hire a surveyor or title company.

Identifying a property attorney

If you need a real estate attorney, ask friends or family members who have recently purchased a home for referrals. In states where it is customary or obligatory to have an attorney, your real estate agent will likely also have recommendations. Verify that your attorney's credentials are in good standing with the state bar association. State bar association websites can also be used to locate local real estate attorneys.

How much will a real estate attorney cost?

The cost of a real estate attorney will vary based on the services you require and how they choose to bill you. The attorney may charge either a flat fee for a specific set of services (such as reviewing the title abstract and providing a title opinion) or an hourly rate.

Typically, real estate attorney fees are included in your closing costs. Since it is not a fixed cost, it will appear on your loan estimate document under "services you can shop for." The estimate provided in the loan estimate is subject to change based on the attorney you retain and your legal requirements.


A real estate lawyer, like any other type of lawyer, is required to have a law degree, the attainment of which typically requires full-time students to spend the equivalent of three years in school. They have also been successful in the bar examination that was given by the state in which they are licensed to practice law. The training for real estate law can begin during law school with elective courses and internships, as well as it can continue after the graduation with a certification in real estate law.

When You Need a Real Estate Attorney

As was mentioned, certain states mandate the presence of a licensed real estate attorney during the closing process of any real estate transaction. The states of Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia are the ones being referred to as "attorney closing states." Other states are referred to as "attorney title opinion states," which means that the certification of title must be performed by an attorney. Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming are the names of the states in question. There are four states—Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio—that do not mandate the use of real estate attorneys; however, according to local custom and practice, real estate attorneys are typically involved in transactions.

If you don't live in one of these states, deciding whether or not to retain legal representation is entirely up to you. It could depend on how confident you are in your own understanding of the intricacies involved in real estate law. If you're trying to navigate a particularly murky or complex situation, like a foreclosure or a short sale, hiring one is something you should definitely give some serious thought to doing.


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