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Who Should Hire a Real Estate Attorney?

gavel on top of a book with a house in the background

Home purchasing is a complicated business, especially for the majority of consumers who don't purchase very often. For this reason, many people choose to hire a real estate attorney to guide them through the process and avoid legal mistakes that could harm them later.

Others might be wary to do so. It is an extra fee, in addition to the already-expensive home purchase. According to Nolo, lawyers typically charge between $150 and $350 an hour.1 This adds up, especially with complicated sales. Others may charge flat rates for basic, uncomplicated services, such as drafting the closing documents.

Instead of paying these fees, some try to go it alone, relying on their own knowledge or research, or consult their real estate agent. In some cases, a person might be fine figuring out the home buying process without the help of a lawyer. Other times, though, buyers could find themselves in sticky situations that could have well been avoided with the help of someone educated on real estate law.

Look to the Law

The first thing you need to determine when deciding whether to hire a real estate attorney or not is if it is a requirement in your state. Some state laws say that a real estate attorney is the only person who can prepare documents associated with a home purchase and close a deal, according to Nolo.

Is Your Purchase Complicated?

Buying a home is a complex process, but there are some instances that are trickier than average, according to Certain cases are better off with a lawyer than without one, such as buying:

  • A property in a new state
  • Part of an estate sale
  • In an area prone to floods, tornadoes or other potentially harmful environmental conditions
  • Bank owned property
  • A home with potential structural damage

Nolo explained other abnormal circumstances might best be handled with the help of a real estate attorney. For instance, if you want to rent the property before you buy, if there is odd language in your mortgage, or if you want to add some uncommon contingencies to the purchase agreement. Additionally, if a part of the home has been renovated in a way that breaks local coding regulations, or if the home has a rental tenant that insists on staying in the unit until the end of the lease.

If you are buying a property with the intention to alter it, it's important to be sure your plans are within the zoning guidelines for your new neighborhood and city. A lawyer will be able to tell you if your plans are achievable or not, before you sign the contract, explained.3

Attorneys Avoid Problems

There are plenty of issues you can dodge by working with a real estate lawyer. By being a part of the process from the beginning, the attorney can catch a problem early on, before it becomes a financial detriment to you. explained the lawyer will look over all the documents with you and will be able to spot terms or conditions you might have missed. It's easy to let the high emotions of buying a home cloud your vision during the last few stages of the process. The lawyer will be there during that time, providing a set of second, and much more experienced, eyes on the situation.

If you find yourself in a situation where buying a certain home no longer sounds like a good idea, such as if a home inspection reveals extensive mold or structural issues, a real estate attorney can help to void the purchase in most states.

Working out unpaid expenses with the seller, like utilities, property taxes and condominium assessments is something the typical homebuyer doesn't know much about. A real estate attorney is a great resource for these issues and can help with the purchase agreement to make sure you are paid what the seller owes you.

In some cases, a real estate attorney isn't necessary. Some real estate agents have knowledge of some of these topics as well and could be a great resource that is less expensive than a lawyer. However, if there are any complications in your sale, or if you are a first-time homebuyer, working with a real estate attorney might be a good idea. They will always have your best interest in mind and can help to explain the whole process to you.



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