When Do I Need to Hire a Real Estate Attorney?

September 15, 2021

Selling or buying real estate could be straightforward, or it could present substantial difficulties. Complicated legal questions can add to an already complex process and escalate quickly. For these reasons, many buyers and sellers feel reassured with a real estate lawyer by their side. Others prefer working with a real estate agent. Both skilled professionals have their own set of specialties, so how can you know if you need to hire a real estate attorney? We are happy to help you navigate that decision.

Real Estate Lawyer

Legal Requirements

When you are looking to sell or buy property, it is not likely that you will be required to hire a real estate attorney. But there are some states that only allow a lawyer to prepare home purchase documents, perform a title search, and close the deal – check with your real estate agent to be sure on this score. It is also possible that your state requires buying agents to ensure fair dealings.

If you are not obligated to hire an attorney but are still unsure as to whether you might benefit from having one on board, you will need to investigate a bit and understand a little more about what will be involved in your real estate transaction. Knowing what each party does is another key to making your decision.

Different Titles, Different Responsibilities

Real estate agents often specialize in either buying or selling. They can help you to find the ideal home or commercial space that fits your parameters. They have in-depth knowledge of their industry, the specifics of various neighborhoods, and they know how to spot potential problems or defects. A real estate agent is also able to negotiate for repairs and could even recommend a contractor. A skilled agent can also prepare a market analysis, draw up a contract, and handle any other number of tasks that fall within the real estate realm. However, they absolutely cannot provide legal advice of any kind, on threat of losing their license and they do not represent your legal interests.

A real estate lawyer, on the other hand, does not have the specific industry knowledge that an agent does. Where their expertise comes into play is when there are legal matters involved in the real estate process. A shared driveway easement, whether or not to hold title, or issues surrounding rental space are examples of situations that would fall within an attorney’s purview. Both real estate agents and real estate attorneys can help with the contractual process and can negotiate on your behalf with the other parties involved. Just keep in mind that they are coming at the situation from different angles.

When You Need an Attorney

Many people feel confident to sell their homes without engaging an agent, but might call on a real estate attorney to look over paperwork, just in case. Meanwhile, some individuals might hire a real estate agent, but don’t really see the need for an attorney. We would argue that both are necessary to a successful real estate transaction. Even an apparently straightforward sale or purchase could present its issues. We recommend sticking with agents for real estate advice, and lawyers for legal advice. If you find that your agent cannot legally address your concerns, it is probably best to bring an attorney on board.

These types of concerns would warrant a real estate attorney’s specific know-how:

  • Eviction prior to sale or purchase
  • Liens or legal encumbrances
  • Renting before buying
  • Commercial tenant relationships or tax filing status
  • Estate property
  • Foreclosure proceedings
  • Building codes or permit guidelines
  • Mineral or surface rights, environmental concerns, zoning issues, or structural conditions
  • Known physical damage or susceptibility to hazards or natural disasters
  • Lead, asbestos, or termites
  • Out-of-state or out-of-country purchasing
  • Legal rights, previous judgments or bankruptcy

Looking over the above list, it is clear that anything outside of the norm or that could present potential unknowns or problematic situations in the future are topics to take up with a lawyer. Of course, even if the transaction is seemingly cut and dry, issues can arise related to closing or specific language in the contract. In that case, a real estate attorney is a must, because an agent cannot represent you in court and has no legal authority to make the situation right. Also, an attorney often holds more weight when it comes to negotiating terms with the opposing party.

If you feel uneasy or unsure about any aspect of the transaction, follow your intuition and consult with an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and your wishes are respected. If you simply want to better understand any possible liabilities or obligations you could face, would like a more thorough knowledge of what you are agreeing to, or want to be sure that potential red flags are addressed, hiring a lawyer is your best option.

An attorney can also help you to draft the many documents that are part of a real estate purchase or sale, such as a sales contract or purchase agreement, a lease or eviction notice, and title, deed, and mortgage documents. A real estate agent can handle many of these also, but without the legal advice. In the end, both professionals have their own set of specialized skills when it comes to real estate transactions, and it is often wise to employ both for an outcome that will suit your needs while preserving your rights.

The Financial Question

Cost is always a consideration during any real estate transaction. Your agent is dedicated to negotiating a good price for you, their client, but at the same time they operate on a commission basis. Real estate attorneys, on the other hand, generally charge flat fees or hourly rates for their services. Take your resources and legal needs into account when deciding whether to hire a real estate attorney and discuss your concerns with your real estate agent. A note of caution though – failing to meet with a real estate attorney could mean that you are left unprotected and open to various pitfalls and lawsuits. If you have any legal concerns at all, we will always recommend you to consult a real estate lawyer. Prevention will cost far less than a cure.

Qualified Professionals, Trusted Advisers

The DeBaltzo Law Firm has wide-ranging real estate experience and is honored to represent individuals and businesses in residential, retail, industrial and commercial transactions in Ohio and Florida. We regularly assist our clients with planning, negotiating, conducting due diligence, and reviewing reports. Real estate transactions can present their fair share of confusion and complexity. The DeBaltzo Law Firm is here to break down technicalities, facilitate understanding, and protect your legal rights. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your specific needs and encourage you to get in touch. Call us with your real estate concerns – we are ready to help.

Facebook Leave us a review on Google! Find us on LinkedIn!
All Rights Reserved 2022, DeBaltzo Law Firm - Admin Login   |   Privacy Policy   |   Digital Marketing & Search Engine Optimization by Alt Media Studios