What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do? (And When To Hire One)

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A real estate attorneys role is to ensure the legal transfer of property from seller to buyer. These attorneys handle tasks like preparing or reviewing documents, ensuring that the title is clear and facilitating the transfer of funds.

A real estate lawyers exact duties will vary depending on whether you, the seller or the lender hire them, what your state laws require and whats needed for your home purchase to proceed smoothly.

What does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

What does a real estate attorney do?

Real estate attorneys ensure that the proper procedures take place for acquiring or selling a property. They also cover any legal issues related to buying or selling property. Real estate attorneys work with zoning, deeds, estate planning, titles, property taxes and anything else concerning real estate law. Here are some of their responsibilities:

Draft and create legal documents

Most real estate transactions are document-based. Its critical for clients to have the help of a real estate attorney who has the knowledge and skills to complete the paperwork correctly while securing their concerns and rights. Although real estate agents can help clients fill out documents, only real estate attorneys can revise or draft documents. Here are some of the different documents that real estate attorneys often prepare:

Represent clients in legal disputes

Clients may have to bring profound or complicated real estate problems to a court of law. In these situations, they need a real estate attorney with the skills and knowledge to handle their legal dispute. Real estate attorneys train how to both defend and prosecute real estate issues so that both parties can reach a resolution. Some examples of the type of legal proceedings you may deal with are:

Clarify technical or vague terms

There are many technicalities and complex terminology in real estate transactions. A real estate attorney can help clients to fully understand these concepts so they dont lose money, make any mistakes or end up with some other negative consequence because of a technicality or terminology they misunderstood. A real estate attorney can also:

Give clients control over the process

The assistance of a real estate attorney can help ensure that their clients have control over a real estate transaction, regardless of whether they are the buyer or seller. Real estate attorneys can use your knowledge and skills to secure clients rights, needs and desires during the transaction. You can also be excellent negotiators on your clients behalf, and negotiate the conditions and terms of a real estate deal. Real estate attorneys also work as mediators between clients and other attorneys, brokers, developers and investors.

Review sales transactions

Some real estate attorneys hold a consulting role where you only provide advice or review documents during a real estate transaction. The buyer and seller negotiate the deal, sign the contract and ask the real estate attorney to simply perform due diligence on the deal. Due diligence is when the real estate attorney examines any issues and all the documents in the transaction like environmental issues, title issues, reports and contracts. Your training helps you find potential problems the buyer or seller may overlook. As a consultant, the real estate attorney protects your client from any unforeseen legal traps.

Engage in litigation

When real estate transactions encounter issues that are difficult to resolve, its common for them to end up as a lawsuit in the courts. When this happens, real estate attorneys often:

Handle foreclosure proceedings

This is an area of specialty that some real estate attorneys focus on and it includes trust deed foreclosures and mortgage foreclosures. Especially during times of economic distress, real estate attorneys may represent lenders or borrowers and guide them through the foreclosure process by filing a lawsuit, challenging any mistakes or negotiating for a settlement.

What is a real estate attorney?

A real estate attorney is a lawyer who handles the legal aspects and acts as a litigator for real estate transactions. The two types of real estate attorneys are residential and commercial. Residential real estate attorneys help people purchase a home, navigate a foreclosure or resolve disputes with their landlord or tenant. Commercial real estate attorneys help people with zoning issues, development projects and construction. Their role can be very simple, like preparing legal documents, or rather complex, like representing complicated property disputes in court.

Like many occupations, real estate attorneys can be generalists or specialists. If you intend to become a real estate attorney, it can be helpful to know more about the different types of real estate attorneys. Here are some examples:

When do clients hire a real estate attorney?

Some states require real estate attorneys to oversee real estate transactions and participate in the closing process. Other states only require a real estate attorney to certify the property title. A few states do not require real estate attorneys to take part in anything, however, people often still hire a real estate attorney to be involved in the transaction process. A client decides if they need a real estate attorney based on the state they live in, their confidence in handling the transaction and their knowledge of real estate law. Here are some times when clients may need to hire a real estate attorney:

When buying a home

Real estate attorneys act as an intermediary and conduct negotiations between the buyer and the real estate agent during a typical home purchase. Although the process may seem simple, without a real estate lawyer there can be negative consequences for the buyer, seller or agent. Here is the typical process that a real estate attorney oversees:

When making a purchase agreement

The most important document in a real estate transaction is the purchase agreement. Real estate attorneys can explain the standard form or make changes or additions to the form to meet the buyers or sellers needs. Some common issues that real estate attorneys address in purchase agreements are:

When doing a title search

A title insurance company does a title search on the sellers property title after the signing of the purchase agreement. In most states, a real estate attorney reviews the status of the title and gives an expert opinion about the condition of the title. You would oversee the title search, explain title exceptions and review title insurance. Real estate attorneys help determine if the legal description on the title is correct and if there are any issues with prior owners. You can explain restrictions, agreements or easements associated with the title and if they affect the sale of the property.

When processing a closing

At the closing of a property sale, the deed along with other closing papers need to be prepared, the titles pass to the buyer from the seller and the seller pays the purchase price balance. A real estate attorney oversees this closing process, prepares a closing statement with buyers and sellers credits and debits and explains the amounts, nature and fairness of all the closing costs. After the parties sign all the closing documents, the real estate attorney explains and executes the documents appropriately.

Requirements for becoming a real estate attorney

Like all types of lawyers, real estate attorneys must earn a law degree and pass your states bar exam. First, you earn a bachelors degree, then you pass the law school admissions test and then you complete a three-year graduate law program. Law students who want to specialize in real estate can consider taking the following actions:

Real estate attorney skills

Here are many of the common skills that real estate attorneys possess:


How much does a real estate attorney cost in NY?

On average, New York real estate attorneys charge between $2,000 to $3,000 per transaction. However, fees depend on the attorney, the deal’s complexity, and what part of NY the property is. Each attorney has different rates, and there is no set amount that every homeowner must pay.

Can you buy a house in NY without a lawyer?

If you are buying a home in New York, you will need to hire an attorney to negotiate the contract of sale and to represent you at the closing.

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