Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer? What to Look for & Why It's Important
Hiring a real estate lawyer helps ensure that every step of the buying and selling process goes smoothly. Sure, you might not think you need one. But a lot can go wrong when transferring property ownership. For example, if you discover that a homeowner doesn't have the right to sell a property, you'll be glad you have a lawyer on your side.
Of course, some lawyers do their jobs better than others. We can help you choose a reliable, experienced attorney who fits your budget.
What Does a Real Estate Lawyer Do?
A lawyer can perform several services to ensure property ownership transfers property from one party to another. Common tasks include:
- Reviewing the property's history to determine whether the current owner actually owns the title and has the right to sell it.
- Searching for liens that would prevent the owner from selling the property.
- Reading contracts to make sure you understand every aspect of the deal.
- Representing you when the property owner doesn't want to follow a signed contract.
The roles played by real estate attorneys matter so much that some places require you to hire one before buying or selling property.
Does the Lawyer Represent Your Interests?
This is an interesting question that many people do not think about until it's too late. The lawyers will always represent the interests of the people or companies that hire them. If your mortgage lender hires a lawyer, though, that attorney will work for the lender. That's often helpful, but it doesn't necessarily mean you will benefit.
If someone else hires a real estate lawyer for your sale or purchase, consider hiring one to represent you. A lawyer might not be required, but you'll have more protection.
What Happens When You Don't Hire a Lawyer?
Assuming that a lawyer's involvement isn't required, ideally, nothing negative will happen if you don't hire a lawyer.
Getting an attorney in your corner, however, often means the process will go much more smoothly. It also protects you from situations you might consider unthinkable. Sometimes a property owner doesn't have the legal right to sell a home or land. An existing title could show that someone else — such as a previous owner's relative — is the rightful owner.
Title insurance helps protect you from losing ownership of the real estate you buy. Realistically, though, it's better to avoid the situation entirely. Let the current owners sort through the problem in court. You can always look for a home that doesn't require so much effort to purchase.
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?
There isn't a fixed price for hiring a real estate lawyer. You can expect to pay about $150 to $200 per hour. If the deal happens quickly, the lawyer might only spend a couple of hours reviewing your documents. A more complicated situation will mean you are spending more money on legal services.
More often than not, the cost of hiring a lawyer gets added to your closing costs. Other closing costs include:
- Title insurance
- Appraisal fees
- Home inspections
- PMI (private mortgage insurance) and other forms of insurance
- Broker fees
- Application fees
- Prepaid interest
The buyer usually pays most of the closing costs. You can, however, transfer closing costs to the seller by making it part of the contract.
Closing costs usually equal 2% to 6% of the property's sale price. A $250,000 home, for example, will typically have closing costs between $5,000 and $15,000.