5 reasons to hire a lawyer when you buy or sell a home
There are a lot of costs involved with buying or selling a home. Do you really need to add to that by paying for a real estate lawyer? Experts say that in many, if not most cases, the answer is that the added protection of having a lawyer on your side can be money well spent.Footnote1
Let's face it, most of us don't buy or sell homes frequently. While it may be possible to navigate the process alone, an experienced lawyer can be an invaluable guide. Here are some reasons you may want to have legal backup for this complicated transaction.
If you're buying, you may be required to have a lawyer.
In some states, you don't have a choice — you have to hire a lawyer when you buy a house. Currently, the following 21 locations require homebuyers to use a lawyer: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.Footnote2 But since laws can change, be sure to check with your real estate agent to see what the requirements are in your location.
Whether you're buying or selling, a lawyer will look at all the details.
Real estate lawyers are responsible for reviewing the purchase agreement and other legal documents, doing a title review to make sure there are no liens or other issues, checking for taxes or association fees that may be due, and helping negotiate repairs that turn up in the home inspection. A lawyer can also let you know about zoning or other regulations that might prevent you from making desired improvements to the home. Finally, if subsequent issues develop, your lawyer would be ready to assist.
Real estate agents may be well informed, but they don't have a lawyer's expertise.
Laws and procedures for transferring property vary from location to location. While good real estate agents are trained to know the basics, they don't have the depth of knowledge or legal expertise that an experienced real estate attorney can offer. Especially for complicated transactions like short sales, foreclosures, estate sales or other unusual circumstances, you'll want to be sure all bases are covered.
Hiring a lawyer up front can help avoid bigger problems later.
You don't want your closing to be derailed by unexpected problems. If there is a problem with the purchase contract, or if there is a lien or court judgment on the home, a lawyer can help resolve the situation. Whether there is paperwork that needs to be filed or the price has to be negotiated, you'll be in good hands.
Peace of mind is worth the cost.
Remember, your lawyer's job is to protect your interests and ensure that your purchase or sale comes to a smooth, successful closing. And while, according to Realtor.com, a real estate lawyer may cost you approximately $800 to $1,000,Footnote1 that's just a fraction of what it might cost if issues arise after the closing that could take you to court.
For most of us, buying a home is one of the most expensive and complicated purchases we'll ever make. If you do decide to go it alone, be sure to do your own due diligence to ensure a satisfying and successful result.
A note from your lending specialist
Please keep me in mind if you're thinking about buying a home. From estimating what you can afford to exploring mortgage options, I'll be here for you every step of the way.
1 Do You Really Need a Real Estate Attorney to Buy or Sell a House? Answers Ahead. Julie Ryan Evans, Realtor.com, Mar 13, 2022. Accessed July 2023.
2 Do You Need a Lawyer to Buy a House? And Answers to Other Questions. Kathryn Pomroy, Contributing Author. HomeLight, January 31, 2022. Accessed July 2023.
MAP5910691 | 09/2023