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What do real estate attorneys do?

Find out how they help home buyers and sellers

A real estate attorney specializes in handling the legal issues related to the purchase of properties. They often represent buyers and sellers at closing, and their work may include creating and reviewing purchase agreements, mortgage documents, and title and appraisal reports.

Some states require a real estate attorney to manage the closing of a property’s sale. Others make the help of real estate attorneys optional. Real estate attorneys also represent property owners during legal disputes.

Which states require a real estate attorney?

Some states require you to have a real estate attorney to close on your home. These states include Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia according to the National Notary Association. Other states may require an escrow or title company conduct the closing. Research the requirements in your state or ask your real estate agent what laws may apply to you.

Why should you hire a real estate attorney?

You may want to hire a real estate attorney even when your state does not require it. Real estate attorneys can help:

  • Prepare paperwork. The real estate attorney can draft and review title documents, home inspection reports, disclosures, appraisals, and sales contracts.
  • Negotiate. With real estate transactions, there can be negotiations. Real estate attorneys have experience negotiating for their clients.
  • Review disclosures. Most states require sellers to disclose information about the property to buyers. Real estate attorneys can help you make disclosures when you are selling a home or understand disclosures when you are buying one.
  • Execute title searches. These searches make sure the seller is the legal owner of the property and there are no liens or financial claims against it. A real estate attorney can also review the results of title searches for you.
  • Handle closing. A real estate attorney can ensure documents meet legal requirements and payments are distributed correctly.
  • Offer peace of mind. Closing the sale of a property can be complicated. Many people like having an attorney to help make sure everything goes right.

Why might you not hire a real estate attorney?

  • The extra cost. Real estate attorneys charge fees which will increase the amount of money you pay to complete the sale.
  • You have a simple transaction. If your sale is straightforward, you may want to skip hiring a real estate attorney.
  • You have a knowledgeable real estate agent. Real estate agents often understand the legal requirements of real estate transactions and can help you with them. A title company or settlement agent may be able to help as well.

What does it cost to hire a real estate attorney?

Attorneys might charge between $150 and $350 an hour depending on where they are located. The total number of hours they charge depends on the sale’s complexity, how many issues arise, and other factors. Real estate attorneys may charge a flat fee for simple sales.

Last reviewed and updated January 2023 by Freedom Mortgage Corporation.

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