Buying and selling a real estate property can be complicated, and you may want to seek the help of a real estate attorney to lead you through the process. Here we’ll break down what a real estate attorney does, why you may need one, and how to go about finding the right one for you.
What is a Real Estate Attorney?
A real estate attorney can help you with the legal matters associated with real estate transactions, such as township ordinances, environmental problems, and more. They also help you analyze and understand lease agreements, contracts, and other important documents to ensure that you’re completely aware of your responsibilities.
It’s not just homeowners who seek assistance from real estate attorneys when they’re buying or selling a home. Real estate investors also need to consult attorneys throughout their careers, for reasons like:
Familiarity with the area. The best local real estate attorney is completely well-versed in the laws and regulations of your area. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that he or she will ensure that your property complies with those specific laws.
Communicating with your realtor. A good real estate attorney will work with your realtor and smooth out misunderstandings that may arise, such as survey issues or boundary disputes.
Streamlining the entire process. Your real estate attorney will guide you throughout the entire buying or selling process. They check the title and other important documents for the property and handle any and all unforeseen events that may occur during the closing.
Handling potential issues. Several problems could arise when dealing with real estate transactions, such as tenant claims, leaseholds, and environmental issues. It’s easier to solve these issues if you’re working with an attorney who’s had previous experience in handling common problems buyers and sellers face. If an unexpected issue comes up, a good attorney should be able to steer you to the right direction.
Negotiating with buyers and sellers. Hiring a real estate attorney makes it easier for you to negotiate terms and deals with buyers and sellers. Real estate properties are a huge investment and sometimes, negotiations can be an emotional process. An unbiased point of view and a clear head are necessary to ensure a successful transaction. A real estate attorney’s experience with the ins and outs of law and negotiations makes it easier to come up with a solution in favor of both parties.
Verifying the legitimacy of a transaction. Real estate attorneys can verify the legitimacy of a deal. For instance, an affordable deal on the market could have you end up with thousands of dollars in tax debt. A real estate attorney can look into the property and existing owners and check for liens, debts, and other issues that may arise. They’ll make sure that the deal is legit before you invest.
4 Questions You Need to Ask Potential Real Estate Attorneys
Before you sign contracts and documents, consider asking your attorney these four important questions to ensure they have the skills and expertise you need:
1. How long have you been a real estate attorney?
Experience is one of the most important factors to look for in a real estate attorney. Especially if you’re dealing with a complicated transaction, a more seasoned lawyer will be better equipped to handle your needs. Because real estate laws vary from state to state, it will help to know how many years they’ve practiced law in your particular area. You’ll want to make sure that your attorney is familiar with the rules and regulations in your state.
Inquire about their educational background, where they received their law degree, and if they specialize in a specific area of real estate law.
2. How much do you charge for your services?
Knowing how much an attorney charges for their services allows you to effectively manage your finances and eliminate hassles later on. The payment depends on the type of case involved. Many lawyers bill clients by the hour, while some charge a flat fee.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $450 per hour for hourly billings, depending on how complicated your case is. You may also have to pay a retainer fee upfront to book the services of your attorney.
Depending on the complexities of your case, it might make more sense to hire an experienced lawyer and pay a little more. Don’t hesitate to ask for an estimate and negotiate for a better price, if you can.
3. Have you handled similar cases to mine?
Every real estate deal is unique, so it pays to work with an attorney who’s had experience in dealing with many different situations. While you may not be able to ask for specific details about previous cases, you can ask them about the strategies they’ve implemented in past situations similar to yours. Furthermore, you should ask them to put together a plan for how they would handle your case. This will help you to gauge if they are the right fit for your specific needs and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your attorney knows what he or she is doing.
4. How and when can I usually get in touch with you?
Handling unpredictable emergencies that may occur is one of the main reasons people want to hire a real estate attorney. If you’re dealing with time-sensitive transactions, it helps to know when and how you can get in touch with your lawyer. They should always be able to get back to you within 24 hours.
When Should You Hire a Real Estate Attorney?
Many people forego hiring a real estate attorney thinking they can do everything themselves, but there are several instances where you should hire one. Here are some of the most common scenarios:
Selling a distressed property. A property becomes distressed if the homeowner fails to keep up with mortgage and/or tax payments. Selling these types of properties can be complicated and you’ll most likely need legal support.
Out-of-town buyer. Hiring a real estate attorney also makes sense if you’re an out-of-town buyer. You’ll need an attorney if you’re buying a short-sale or bank-owned property. It also helps to work with a real estate lawyer if you’re buying commercial real estate located in hazardous areas or with structural issues.
Protection for buyers and sellers. Real estate attorneys offer a level of protection for buyers and sellers. They can help you avoid common issues associated with buying or selling property, clear vague or ambiguous terms, and handling purchase agreements, title search, and closing.
The Bottom Line
Hiring the right real estate attorney requires some legwork. Expect to interview several lawyers before making your final decision. Appointing a good real estate attorney can be crucial to the success of your transactions, whether you’re a veteran real estate investor or a first-time buyer.
A real estate attorney can provide legal protections, walk you through contracts and documents, and more importantly, guarantee a smooth transaction when buying or selling property. Ask the right questions and don’t settle until you find someone you trust. A good real estate attorney will guide you through the entire process.
At the end of the day, it’s best to choose a real estate attorney that you’re comfortable with. Do your research, ask the right questions (and for referrals) as you conduct your search.