Residential Real Estate

Buying a home is probably the biggest investment you'll ever make. In addition to hiring a real estate agent to help negotiate the transaction, you might consider a real estate lawyer to guide you through the legal process. Real estate attorneys specialize in matters related to property, from transactions to handling disputes between parties.

Many states require a real estate attorney be present at closing. Even if your state does not require one, you might want a real estate attorney to be there for you. A real estate attorney will represent your interests at closing. They will review all paperwork in advance and advise on any problems or omissions with the documentation.


Most real estate lawyers charge an hourly fee for services, although some charge a flat rate. The lawyer will tell you up front.

Real estate law encompasses the purchase and sale of real property, meaning land and any structures on it. It also covers legal issues related to anything attached to the property or structures, such as appliances and fixtures.

Lawyers who specialize in real estate ensure that proper procedures are followed during the acquisition or sale of property. They also may be concerned with how a property is zoned for usage. Real estate law covers deeds, property taxes, estate planning, zoning, and titles.

Real estate laws vary by state and local government. Attorneys must be licensed to practice in the state where the transaction is taking place, and must stay abreast of any state or local developments that could impact a transaction.


A real estate attorney is equipped to prepare and review documents relating to purchase agreements, mortgage documents, title documents, and transfer documents.

A real estate attorney hired to handle a transaction will always attend the closing with the buyer. Closing is when the money is paid and the title is transferred. The attorney is there to ensure the transfer is legal, binding, and in the best interests of the client.

 

During the purchase of a property, the real estate attorney and staff might prepare documents, write title insurance policies, complete title searches on the property, and handle the transfer of funds for the purchase. If the purchase is being financed, the attorney is responsible for paperwork such as the federal HUD-1 Form and related transfer of funds documentation for the buyer's lender.

In the case of a real estate dispute, such as chain of title, lot line problems, or other issues involving contracts, the attorney will resolve the problem.

 

A real estate attorney may also provide legal representation for either a buyer or a seller when a dispute winds up in a courtroom. The real estate attorney obtains facts from both sides of the dispute and tries to bring them to a resolution.

As noted, some states require a real estate attorney to supervise real estate transactions and be present at closing. These "attorney closing states" are Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia.