Buying a house is a big deal. That’s not just because you’re going to be living there for a while, but also because this investment is likely the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make. That’s why it’s important to have a team of professionals by your side who know how to deal with just about any issue that comes up. The list of professionals who can help with home buying includes real estate agents, mortgage brokers, and real estate attorneys.
Maybe you’re familiar with the benefits of working with agents and brokers, but you’re wondering why real estate attorneys would be involved. Well, one of the reasons is that many states require you to hire a real estate attorney before you buy a home! If you’re wondering if your state does, take a look at this list of the states with this requirement—and some reasons you might want to hire an attorney even if it’s not required.
Which States Require a Real Estate Attorney To Be Present at Closing?
Not all states require a real estate attorney to help with the closing duties, but nearly half of them do. So as you get ready to buy a home, it’s a good idea to find out if your state requires you to hire an attorney from the very beginning.
The following states require you to hire a real estate attorney when you buy a home:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
If you live in any of these states, you’ll need to arrange to hire a real estate attorney. Before you do, you should get an idea of how much you’ll likely spend. Some lawyers charge per hour for their legal services, usually about $150 to $300 per hour. Others charge a flat fee for helping with real estate transactions, often somewhere between $500 and $1,500.
If you’re required to hire a real estate attorney, you’ll have to budget for this expense. But even if your state doesn’t have this requirement in place, it’s helpful to still hire this type of lawyer, as many buyers find it a small price to pay for some peace of mind while buying a home. After all, real estate attorneys can help in a wide variety of ways.
What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?
When you think of a real estate attorney’s tasks, you might assume he or she is there simply to handle any legal issues that arise when you’re buying a home. And while that’s definitely one aspect of the job, there are additional duties a lawyer can help with as you buy a home. So even if you never have to deal with any legal issues during the home buying process—as is the case for many buyers—a real estate attorney can likely still help you.
For example, a real estate attorney often helps with preparing and reviewing paperwork, both on closing day and long before that day arrives. In fact, this type of attorney typically prepares many of the documents that you’ll sign on closing day, such as title insurance policies, transfer of funds documents, and mortgage deeds.
And if there are documents the attorney doesn’t prepare, he or she will review them to make sure they’re correct and won’t pose a problem for you on closing day. If there are any issues with the paperwork, your real estate attorney will get the changes made on your behalf so you don’t have to worry about doing this yourself.
Then of course, the real estate attorney attends closing day with the buyer. This way, if there are any last-minute changes you didn’t agree to previously, the attorney can review them before you give your approval. If there are issues that can’t be resolved in one day, your real estate attorney will represent you in court when necessary, as he or she is equipped to get the facts from both sides and hire other professionals—such as surveyors and title companies—to solve the issue.
Even when there are no problems on closing day, it’s nice to have a team—made up of your real estate agent and attorney—there to provide support. That’s why hiring an attorney is either required or highly recommended, depending on your state.
What Are Some Situations That a Real Estate Attorney Can Help with?
Now you know a real estate attorney can help you with much of the paperwork you need to sign when you buy a house. But this type of lawyer’s duties go beyond preparing important mortgage and title documents. There are some specific situations where a lawyer is highly recommended in order to protect the buyer.
One example is when the house you want to buy has significant damage, whether it’s a termite infestation, lead paint on the walls, or a roof that needs to be replaced. After all, in many cases, you’ll want to ensure these major issues are fixed before you agree to buy the house. If the seller refuses to make the repairs or lower the price of the house accordingly, you might need legal help to ensure you don’t lose a lot of money on the deal. A real estate attorney can assist you in either getting out of the contract at the last minute or ensuring the repairs get done before closing day.
Another instance in which a real estate attorney can help you is if there’s a dispute over the lot lines. If it’s not clear where the property ends and your neighbor’s begins, there’s going to be an issue when you move in and start to make any changes to the yard. A lawyer has the resources to resolve the issue so you don’t have to worry as you move in—which is a big reason to hire this type of professional!
Should You Hire a Real Estate Attorney?
If you don’t live in a state that requires you to hire a real estate attorney, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire one. In fact, it’s usually recommended that you do, especially if any of the following apply to you:
- You’re buying a bank-owned property
- You’re buying a house in another state
- The home currently has tenants you’ll need to evict
- The house is part of someone’s estate
- The home has structural damage
- The land around the house is subject to floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters
If you’re dealing with any of these details during your home buying journey, hiring a real estate attorney may be a good idea. At the very least, you can typically get a free consultation with a real estate attorney to determine if your situation calls for legal help.
Whether or not you decide to hire a real estate attorney, you’ll definitely need a real estate agent on your side as you buy your dream home. If you don’t have one yet, LemonBrew can match you with a Partner Agent. If you already have the help of a real estate agent, look into LemonBrew Abstract to get the top-notch title and escrow services you deserve when you want a seamless home buying process!