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Real Estate Lawyer – Facilitating Deals with Peace of Mind

A real estate lawyer makes buying and selling property easy. There are different laws, terms and clauses involved with buying and selling property, it is always good to have a real estate attorney on your side. Before knowing how a real estate lawyer can help you, let us understand what a real estate attorney is.

real estate attorney

What is a real estate attorney – meaning and definition

A real estate attorney is a lawyer who facilitates the legal transfer of property from the seller to the buyer. They prepare the documentation for the sale of property and make sure that the title is clear. His services also include the smooth transfer of funds. In addition, he also represents clients in property disputes. They are specialized in cases related to real estate property which means land and structure built on it.

What does a real estate attorney do?

As the name suggests a real estate attorney looks after the legal aspect of the property, its buying and selling, its ownership and compliance. Here we give the details of roles performed by an attorney.

They negotiate the real estate deals

A real estate attorney plays a significant role in negotiating deals. He reads the deal carefully and ensures that his client's interests are well protected. Besides, he also ensures that the deal is in the accordance with state and federal law.

Document and review deals

Going a step further he ensures that deal – sell, purchase, mortgage or rental agreement – is rightly worded and contains all the legal terms and phrases.

Title search

Among other responsibilities, a real estate attorney is also responsible for performing the title search. But before proceeding further let’s know what the title search is.

The title search can be defined as a legal term where a real estate lawyer ensures that a seller has the right to sell a property. For this, he examines the public document to establish that the property is rightfully owned by the seller. While doing a title search the attorney also reveals whether there is any claim or lien against the property that may affect the prospects of a buyer.

Here is what type of title search a real estate attorney does.

  • Ensuring sellers' legal right to sale
  • Finding out if there is a claim or liens
  • Any issue that may affect buyers’ prospect
  • Any restrictive covenants or zoning ordinances that limit the use of land.
  • Checking if all property taxes have been paid.

Documents terms of insurance policies

A real estate attorney also drafts the terms of the insurance. These insurance covers come as a safety net for buyers if a claim against the bought property surfaces.

Facilitates loan closing process

A real estate lawyer also looks after the loan closing process. He makes sure that forms are filled appropriately and all the requisite documents have been submitted. As they have done it many times before, the chances of error are very lean.

Negotiation and dispute

An experienced real estate lawyer could be of great help if there is any dispute arising around your property. In such a case, your attorney negotiates to safeguard your interests. If the case doesn’t get resolved through negotiation and reaches litigation, he negotiates your case.

Represents you in the foreclosure action

People often buy property on loan and sometimes fail to repay the loans. In such a situation a lender moves a foreclosure action in court. Here, a real estate attorney represents you in court.

Moves Quiet title action for you

While closing a deal there are some issues that simply remain uncovered in the title search. Making changes in title records is difficult. Here, your real estate attorney moves a quiet title action giving notice to all concerned parties to either respond to the notice or their claim remains void.

Handles zoning and land issues

The government decides and regulates land use. It regulates which area would be right for single homes, which one for apartments, and which one for commercial activities. Here a real estate owner can file a petition to reconsider the land use. No doubt, the services of a real estate lawyer are needed.

Lease and subleases

Your real estate attorney reviews the leases and subleases on your behalf. He checks the document to ensure that your interests have not been compromised.

Construction contract

If you have purchased the land and want to construct a house on it, then you might be looking for a construction contractor. Here a real estate attorney reviews the terms of the contract and makes sure your interests are protected.

Construction loans

If you are negotiating with a bank or a financial company for some construction loan, then you should have a real estate attorney on your side. He reads and reviews the different clauses and terms of the loan and interprets the same to you guiding you not to sign anything you don’t agree with.

Managing disputes

A real estate attorney helps in managing the dispute. It could be a dispute over construction, a fence, or anything else. He negotiates with all the concerned parties and settles it for you.

Drafting and reviewing covenant

A covenant is a written document included in a deed or agreement that suggests what to do or not to do. So, a real estate lawyer reads the covenant to you making it clear what can you or not do with the property.

When is a real estate attorney needed?

Hiring or not hiring a real state attorney is definitely your choice. But there are certain conditions when you need to hire an attorney.

It’s required by state laws

Some states in America require that there should be a real estate attorney to complete the deal, particularly the closings.

A few of these states where a real estate attorney is required by law are Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina among others.

The kind of requirements may vary from one state to another.

Requirements from lenders

Some lenders also require the involvement of a real estate attorney while a deal is being closed.

Hire or not to hire a real estate lawyer

Whether or not to hire a real estate lawyer has been an eternal dilemma. Here we would like to discuss when you should or shouldn’t hire a real estate lawyer.

When to hire a real estate lawyer

There are certain situations when you consider hiring a real estate lawyer. These conditions are as follows.

Renting out the property

The laws regarding landlords and tenants are highly complex. And as you are renting out the property for the first time, you might not be comfortable understanding its finer nuances. There are laws for late payment of rent, check bounces and termination of tenancy.

A real estate attorney will help safeguard your rights while renting out a property.

Buying a home for the first time

Buying a home is one of the most valuable investments you make. You put in your savings, arrange loans and even seek help from friends. No doubt the stakes are high. You don’t want to take chance as your hard-earned money is involved. You want the smooth transfer of property. You want your deed to be documented right?

Buying a property, that too flawlessly is a multi-step process. Right from title search to covenant and documentation to transfer the payment, everything needs to be done perfectly. Besides, a real estate attorney can also help you with disputes and negotiations.

Here having an experienced real estate attorney on your side could be a great idea.

Commercial property

Buying or selling a commercial property could be a daunting task as the laws pertaining to it are different from those of residential property. The amount involved in the transaction is also large. There are several clauses and subclauses involved with these transactions that may affect your interests. So, relying solely on real estate agents wouldn’t be a great idea. You should hire a real estate lawyer who will safeguard your interests.

Helps make the purchase agreement

The purchase agreement is one of the vital documents for buying a property. Here an attorney explains the terms of the purchase. Additionally, he makes changes in the purchase agreement to make it suitable for buyers and sellers.

Searching for title

The title search is another stage where you need to hire a real estate lawyer. The title search is the stage after signing a purchase agreement. Here, an attorney establishes that the seller has the right to sell the property and there is no lien or mortgage against the property.

Closing a deal

There are several stages to buying a property. Closing of the deal is one such stage. Here deed and other documents are prepared and remains of the balance are paid. Here a real estate attorney prepares the closing document and explains the amount to the buyer and seller.

Bank owned property

There are times when a bank seizes someone’s property for not repaying the loans. Banks sell these properties. If you are buying one of these properties, then hiring a real estate lawyer could be a great idea. Such an attorney examines the document and suggests to you whether this property is worth buying.

Litigation or dispute

Some property buyers think that there is no use in hiring a real estate lawyer while buying a property. It may sound good in the beginning. But it becomes extremely necessary if a dispute surfaces during the transaction or it may scale up to litigation. A real estate agent can’t handle these matters. You need to hire a real estate lawyer who has experience in handling these transactions. 

When not to hire a real estate lawyer

You shouldn't hire a real estate attorney when transaction is very small and can be managed with a real estate agent.

Questions to ask a real estate attorney                 

There is no dearth of real estate lawyers. Almost every law firm claims to be dealing with real estate laws making it more complex. Most law firms claim to have a team of highly qualified attorneys that leaves you puzzled. Here we give you an insight into what questions to ask your prospective real estate attorney.

Start with qualification

As far as the qualification of a real estate attorney is concerned, they should pass the 3-year graduate course in law recognized by the American bar association. In this course, they are taught the basics of law.

Besides, they should also have cleared the bar examination of the state concerned. They are given Juris Doctor (JD) degrees.

They can also earn a Master of Law (LLM) degree.

You should ask them about their level of education and the institutions they have attended. Some real estate lawyers have also attended master of law degrees.

Ask about experience

Practice makes a man perfect and the same applies to a real estate attorney. When it comes to hiring an attorney people often go for the experience. Ask your prospective attorney how much experience they have in total. Also, ask about the relevant experience they have in practicing real estate law. Always prefer one who has experience in local real estate law. It is not wrong to say that practice makes a man perfect.

Commercial vs residential real estate

When it comes to the cost of legal services, there is a difference between commercial and residential real estate lawyers. Commercial real estate lawyers are always on the high side. However, the cost depends upon the nature of the transaction and the services availed. The more services you will avail of, the more you will end up paying.

Success rate

Action speaks louder than words. So, you should prefer a lawyer who doesn’t only talks but whose success speaks about him. Ask him about the number of cases he has handled and with what success.

Would he work alone or with a team?

While interviewing your lawyer you should ask whether he will work on your case alone or if a team would be working on it. In large legal firms, a team is assigned to every assignment.

What can I expect from the case?

An experienced real estate attorney can tell what you can expect from the case. So, you should ask this question from your prospective lawyer.

Tips to hire a real estate attorney

Planning to buy or sell a property and looking for a real estate attorney. Finding the right attorney would be a difficult task.

Know their experience

Like diamonds, attorneys shine with polishing. Longer they practice, the more experience they get. You should prefer hiring a real estate lawyer that has relevant experience.

Here looking for experience is a tricky question. You shouldn’t go for a lawyer who is experienced but whose experience is not relevant.

Sometimes people hire a friend or relative who practices law. This could be a risky proposition.

Look for an active real estate attorney

Some attorneys work on your assignment themselves while others just take the case and assign it to others. Both of these arrangements are good but you should be comfortable with them.

Bar associations could be helpful

States and counties in America have bar associations and attorneys including real state attorneys are required to be associated with their concerned bar associations. These associations are good resources for checking out the credibility of potential attorneys.

You can check their website or make a call to know about the credentials of an attorney. Make sure that the concerned attorney is associated with the association. Here we can know about the complaints filed against the attorneys.

Even if you know the real estate attorney well, an initial check with the bar association is highly recommended.

Know the fee structure

The fee structure is another important consideration when hiring a real estate attorney. Don’t go for the attorney that charges a pittance as a good attorney doesn’t come for a pittance.

Neither should you go for an attorney that charges too much as they might come within your budget.

Always go for an attorney that offers value for money. There could be no dearth of honest employees if you look for them earnestly.

Know the rating of your attorney

There are some rating agencies in the US that rate attorneys. Know the rating of your potential attorney. If your potential attorney is well-rated then you should go ahead. If he is rated bad, or not listed at all, it is time to look for another attorney.

Do you enjoy rapport?

Those interested in the property business keep selling and buying properties. They sell the property today and buy another property tomorrow and vice versa. Such clients look for an attorney with whom they can share good chemistry.

So, you should also look for a lawyer with whom you could have a good rapport. Look for an attorney who can understand your interests well and act accordingly.

Hiring a lawyer in the initial stage

Wise people are proactive. They seek legal help at the initial stage to avoid hurdles that may come in their path. Through years of experience, they know the upcoming hurdles and warn you against them.

Look into their testimonials

There is no proof of a lawyer’s efficiency is than clients’ testimonials. Clients these days don’t hide anything. They believe in calling spade a spade. They praise their lawyers if they are good and don’t hesitate to criticize them if they are not up to the mark.

These testimonials which are commonly available online can offer great insights and help you find the right attorney.

Real estate attorney - Frequently asked questions

As a buyer or seller, you have several questions related to real estate laws and attorneys. Here we will be discussing important among them.

What does a real estate lawyer represent?

A real estate attorney or lawyer can represent either buyer or seller but not both. There are reasons behind it. Representing both – buyer and seller – will lead to a clash of interests.

Buyers and sellers can hire their own attorneys who can assist them while buying and selling properties.

How does a real estate attorney help a buyer?

Many buyers intend to hire a real estate attorney sometime due to need and sometime just to be on the safe side. A real estate attorney helps buyers in more than one way.

  • Title search
  • Preparing sale-purchase agreements
  • Mortgage documentation
  • Property transfer process
  • Title insurance
  • Closing

How does a real estate attorney help sellers?

Real estate attorneys play a pivotal role in the property transaction. It helps sellers in different forms. Here is how they help sellers.

  • Help with contracts
  • Does home inspection
  • Negotiate with parties
  • Titles
  • Distressed properties

What is the definition of the deed?

A deed can be defined as a legal document used to transfer a property from buyer to seller. It is important for those involved in the property transaction.

Is litigation the only option when you find yourself in a property dispute?

No. Most real estate attorneys try to resolve it out of court. If the matter remains unresolved after negotiations, it goes to litigation.

How much does a real estate attorney charge?

On average, a real estate attorney charges $150-$350 an hour. However, the charge may vary according to cities, experience and situations.

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