What Does a Real Estate Lawyer Do?
A real estate lawyer specializes in laws related to real estate. Laws regarding real estate and the buying and selling of residential and commercial property and land vary by state. These lawyers understand the many laws and how they apply in different situations. Some of the things real estate lawyers do include:
- Represent buyers or sellers in real estate transactions
- Draft or advise on legal documents, like contracts, agreements, and titles
- Obtain permits and titles
- Search titles and liens on properties
- Transfer deeds
- Resolve zoning issues
- Complete foreclosure proceedings
- Negotiate with construction and development companies
- Consult with companies on their property and real estate purchases, sales, or investments
- Litigate in the case of fraud and other illegal activities related to real estate
A real estate agent is a professional who lists and markets properties. They do not play the same role as lawyers in the process of buying and selling, but in many situations, they can perform all the tasks necessary to complete a sale.
Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer?
For most simple real estate transactions, a lawyer is not necessary unless required by state. Some states require a lawyer for closing. These include Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia. In Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming, you must have a lawyer to certify a title.
Even if you are only buying or selling a home, some situations make the process complicated. A lawyer can help you in these circumstances:
- You’re conducting the transaction from another state.
- The property is bank-owned.
- You’re selling a property for the estate of a deceased relative.
- There is a problem with the home, such as significant damage or unpermitted additions.
- Tenants or squatters must be evicted from the property.
- You’re selling a home as you go through a divorce.
- You are selling a property with liens.
- You have experienced discrimination when trying to buy a home.
For bigger property transactions, such as those involving a lot of land, commercial properties, or apartment and rental space, having a lawyer is important. You should definitely hire a lawyer for purchases and sales related to your business.
In addition to helping you navigate property transactions, you may need a lawyer if you need to sue an individual or company over real estate issues:
- Purchase and sale disputes
- Zoning disputes
- Contract disputes
- Construction delays or defects
- Disputes with tenants or landlords
- Real estate fraud
How Can a Real Estate Lawyer Help Me?
Real estate law can be very complicated. It often overlaps with contract law, inheritance laws, and even criminal law. Whether you’re purchasing a home with some complications, or you have a real estate dispute, or criminal activity, a real estate lawyer can provide help in several ways:
- Give you peace of mind in transactions.
A real estate lawyer is your advocate, so they can give you peace of mind as you engage in a sale or purchase. With a lawyer, you will know you are not being cheated, that all contracts are fair, and that there are no unpleasant surprises with a building you plan to purchase.
- Give you a better deal.
With their knowledge and experience, a real estate lawyer can help you negotiate a better deal in a property transaction. This is especially important for large or valuable properties.
- Create and acquire documents.
A lawyer can draft a contract or agreement that is in your best interests for a rental, purchase, sale, or property construction. They can also get you the required permits for builds and renovations to ensure you work within the law.
- Litigate on your behalf.
When something goes wrong in real estate, you may need to sue someone. A real estate lawyer understands all the laws that apply and can represent you in negotiations or court.
How to Find a Real Estate Lawyer
Real estate can be complicated with a lot of applicable laws, which means you need a specialist. When looking for an attorney to assist you in a real estate matter, only choose someone specializing in this area of the law.
A great way to find a good real estate lawyer is to ask people you know to provide a referral. You can also check with your state bar association for a list of qualified attorneys. Local organizations that advocate for homeowners may also have referrals. Before you hire anyone, ask for a free consultation, so you can ask important questions like these:
- How long have you been practicing real estate law?
- Have you handled cases like mine? What were the outcomes?
- Can you provide references from past clients?
- How would you handle my situation?
- Will you be readily available to me during this process?
- What are your fees, and can you estimate my total costs?
Hire a lawyer or a firm that you feel comfortable working with above all. A real estate lawyer should be a valuable ally in purchasing, selling, or settling real estate disputes. Whether the law requires you to have a lawyer or not, an advisor and representative will help you feel better about your choices and will make your life easier.