What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do, and Do You Need One?

Team Simplist
Dec 20, 2021

Learn more about this specialized branch of legal practice and whether your home transaction requires the services of a real estate attorney.

Purchasing and selling real estate can be daunting and intimidating – especially for first timers! To ensure smooth sailing, many home buyers and sellers choose to hire pros for guidance during the transaction. In addition to a real estate agent or broker, a real estate attorney can help ensure an efficient process from contract to closing. We know that moving and closing costs add up quickly, but don’t jump to cutting corners and skipping legal fees! Let’s take a closer look at the role that a real estate attorney can play in your property transaction.

What is the difference between a real estate attorney and a general practice attorney?

You may be tempted to hire an adept attorney you worked with on other general legal matters. However, a real estate attorney specializes in property law and accordingly has a stronger grasp of the most relevant topics to you. In addition, he or she should have a network of contacts throughout your market who may prove valuable, especially in the event of a complicated transaction.

Do you need a real estate attorney to purchase or sell property?

Whether you should (or must!) hire a real estate attorney depends on a number of factors, both personal and jurisdictional. Consider:

If it’s required by state law In many states, a real estate attorney is required to supervise the real estate transaction from start to finish; in others, a real estate attorney simply has to review and certify information related to the property title. Your real estate agent will be able to tell you whether or not an attorney is required for your transaction.

In the case of a contractual dispute If you are involved in a transaction that involves complex contractual elements or one that has become adversarial, you may wish to consult a real estate attorney to ensure that you are properly represented and that all of the elements in question are properly recorded in the paperwork.

In the case of a cloud on the title If there is a problem with the title of the property, or you think that there might be ownership questions at some point in the future, it is a good idea to consult a real estate attorney to secure your property ownership rights.

In the case of complex transactions There are various complex circumstances whereby you’ll almost certainly want to have expert legal help on board. These include instances where you are purchasing a property…

  • with unusual or alternative financing in another country
  • through a legal entity
  • that was a short sale or foreclosure
  • with encroachments or boundary disputes
  • with code violations or rental units In these types of cases, a real estate attorney can offer additional peace of mind—you’ll benefit from professional advice, and the knowledge that all documents have been reviewed and completed by an expert.

At your discretion A home purchase is the largest financial transaction of most people’s lives, and for you may simply feel more secure with a real estate attorney by your side. After all, missteps in the home buying/ selling process can be costly and stressful—sometimes it’s best to leave the paperwork to the pros.

What is the difference between a real estate attorney and a title company?

While both can help you to complete your real estate transaction, a title company is only able to provide title search and recording services and to complete the documentation necessary for closing. They cannot provide advice at any point and must act as a neutral third party to the transaction.

What is the difference between a real estate attorney and a real estate agent?

Both a real estate attorney and agent/broker help you navigate your transaction and are required by law to provide fiduciary-level services–meaning they act in your best interest. However, they serve slightly different purposes.

A real estate agent has extensive market knowledge and a robust professional network designed to help you find the right home if you are a buyer, or market your property if you are a seller. They can provide you with strategies and insights and are empowered to negotiate on your behalf. They will then help you coordinate the various steps of the escrow process and answer any questions you may have at the closing.

However, what a real estate agent cannot do is provide legal advice or tell you what you should do. That’s where the services of a real estate attorney are particularly helpful since they are able to serve in an advisory role and offer a legal opinion on various aspects of the transaction. This can be especially important in the case of a complex or contentious negotiation.

How can I find a reliable real estate attorney?

Especially in states where a real estate attorney is a required part of the transaction, your real estate agent or broker will be familiar with attorneys throughout your market and likely all too happy to offer recommendations. You may also be able to talk to your closing officer to find an attorney who collaborates with their office.

Of course, trusted friends and family are often helpful referral resources. Check with someone who has recently purchased or sold a home to see if they used a real estate attorney. Finally, the American Bar Association offers referral services as well as directories and other resources to help you find the right attorney for your particular situation.

Once you have your real estate team assembled and are ready to turn to the financing aspects of your real estate purchase, Simplist offers you a dedicated loan expert to answer all of your most pressing questions. Whether you’re purchasing a home or looking for the best refinancing options, Simplist offers you convenience and peace of mind every step of the way.

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