If you are in the midst of a real estate transaction, you may be wondering whether or not you need a real estate attorney — and if so, what exactly do you need them for? Here are some tips for finding a good real estate attorney and some advice on how they can help you purchase or sell a home.
Why Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney
Real estate attorneys are lawyers who specialize in real estate legal issues. When it comes to buying or selling property, they know better than anyone the ins and outs of property legalese. They work for the home buyer or home seller (in residential cases) and represent their best interests, for a fee. They also handle commercial real estate cases as well, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
While you can opt to use a real estate lawyer for a simple home purchase or home sale, some homeowners forego this step in order to save money. If you are an experienced purchaser you can certainly rely on your real estate agent, but it never hurts to have an expert in legal matters on your side, just in case.
In general, homeowners will decide to use a real estate attorney in certain situations. For buyers, the following are all great reasons to seek legal counsel:
- Out of state/town home purchases
- Purchasing a short sale
- Purchasing a bank-owned property or foreclosure
- Purchasing commercial real estate
- Purchasing an estate
- Purchasing a home with known home improvement issues
- Purchasing a property in a flood zone or disaster prone area
- The purchase involves multiple parties
- Complex property purchases
If you are selling property, the below are all scenarios where you may wish to employ a real estate lawyer:
- Selling a property you inherited
- Selling a property during a divorce or separation
- Selling a property with a lien
- Short-selling a home
- Selling a home with multiple owners
- Selling a home with known problems (structural problems, mold and so forth)
Whether you are buying or selling a home, if you feel uncomfortable with the process, always seek legal advice.
Questions to Ask a Real Estate Attorney
Hiring a real estate attorney is, in some ways, the same as hiring any other service. You always want to perform your due diligence: research the attorney online, seek out reviews and see what other people have to say, and then pick up the phone.
Getting a referral for an attorney is a good idea as well. Ask family members and trusted friends if they have an attorney they have used in the past that deals specifically with real estate law. Your real estate agent may suggest one as well.
Once you have a few names (however you got them), the real work begins. You will want to conduct a phone interview and ask as many questions as possible. Describe your particular situation and ask if they have ever worked on a case like yours before. Other questions to ask include:
- Are they primarily a real estate lawyer? If not, how much of their business is geared toward property law?
- How long have they been practicing law?
- How does your billing work? How much will their services cost?
- Will they be working on your case or will someone else? How much experience does the person working on the case have with real estate law?
- Do they have references?
If the attorney answers all of your questions in a positive light, and you feel comfortable or at ease with them, you can set up a face-to-face meeting to discuss the details of your case in-depth. If you have any red flags or do not trust the attorney 100 percent, it is time to move on and give another lawyer a call.