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Using a Real Estate Attorney

Home buyers in the midst of a real estate transaction may try to cut costs by not hiring an attorney. However, buyers may want to learn about the role of a real estate attorney before making this decision in order to avoid potentially costly mistakes. Real estate attorneys can check title, explain any covenants running with the land, and make sure all parties to a real estate transaction obey relevant laws. Also, landlords and tenants may need legal advice from time to time. This section provides information on what to look for when hiring a real estate attorney and when you may need one, as well the documents an attorney will need to review in order to advise you, and more.

Do You Need a Lawyer When Buying or Selling a House?

You don't always need to hire an attorney when buying or selling a home, but they can be instrumental in making sure there are no suprises down the road. For most people, a house is the largest purchase they will ever make. It also requires a certain amount of legal know-how, which most real estate agents have to some degree. Depending on where you live, you may be able to work with a so-called "Real Property Specialist," which is a lawyer who is specially certified in real estate law.

So while you don't always need a lawyer, there may be times when it's in your best interests.

Legal Assistance with the Purchase Agreement

In real estate terms, the purchase agreement is the formal written contract for the sale. Entering into a contract obligates its signers to certain fiduciary and legal obligations, so you really want to make sure you understand what you're signing. For example, you may be presented with a purchase agreement that makes you liable for a brokerage commission even in the absence of a final sale. These types of oversights may occur when a real estate agent uses standard forms that fail to account for special circumstances.

If you don't have a real estate agent, then having your purchase agreement carefully reviewed by a real estate attorney is especially important. But even those with agents may want to have a lawyer take a glance at the documentation. There are many moving parts to a house transaction, so (for example) you may not be thinking about the tax consequences of the sale when you're finalizing it.

Real estate attorneys can help you answer countless questions about the purchase agreement, including the following:

  • Were all additions and alterations done legally and in compliance of code?
  • If you are the buyer and want to make changes to the property, can they be done lawfully?
  • How should the discovery of hazardous waste, termites, asbestos, or lead-based paint be handled?
  • What are the legal consequences if the sale is not finalized? What about the downpayment?

Legal Help for Landlords

Since the relationship between landlord and tenant is legal in nature and may last for years, it's important that landlords work with attorneys or at least have a lawyer with whom they may consult on occasion. Even landlords who don't believe they have any particular questions will want to meet with an attorney before they start renting. An attorney can review the landlord's policies and lease agreement language to make sure they are within the legal boundaries.

In fact, attorneys can help landlords avoid headaches in the future by helping to create standard lease agreements for all tenants before renting even begins. Lawyers also can help attorneys set up a small business to act as a shield against personally liability.

If you are buying or selling a home, or need help as landlord, you may want to contact an attorney. Click on one of the following links to learn more.

Learn About Using a Real Estate Attorney