Buying and selling real estate requires a myriad of paperwork, multiple lines of communication and large money transfers that need overseeing. Most home sellers and buyers have scant knowledge of the legalese contained within agreements and documents, nor are they necessarily versed in when and how to prepare those documents.
Therefore, many sellers and buyers turn to an expert – a real estate lawyer. But others often ask the question: do you need a real estate lawyer? Is there a DIY approach available, and how safe is it?
The Role of a Real Estate Lawyer
To answer the question above, let’s first detail the role of a real estate lawyer. In the most general terms, a real estate lawyer handles paperwork and transactions; they prepare and review agreements between the seller and buyer and oversee the closing transactions to ensure they are legally binding.
To expand on this definition a little, here are concrete tasks undertaken by a real estate lawyer:
- Writing purchase and sale agreements
- Executing the title transfer
- Discharging the mortgage
- Signing and witnessing all necessary legal documents
- Writing conditional offers
- Helping first-time homebuyers receive applicable rebates
- Liaising between realtors and mortgage professionals
- And a lot more.
On top of the items listed above, a real estate lawyer is a guide through the process. Because they have an intimate knowledge of the legal and procedural aspects of real estate, they are well-poised to explain and advise throughout the process.
Do You Need a Real Estate Lawyer?
To be clear: the question posed in the title of this article is mostly rhetorical. Do you need a real estate lawyer? No, there is no rule saying you must have a real estate lawyer.
Should you hire a real estate lawyer, though? The answer, according to most real estate experts, is a resounding “yes.” It is the safest way to buy and sell a home. Without a real estate lawyer, you may miss crucial deadlines, miss lien issues or ownerships issues, and leave yourself unprotected in purchase or sale agreements.
How to Choose the Right Lawyer
If you haven’t yet chosen a real estate lawyer, consider the following criteria: price, accessibility, expertise and reputation.
You should find a lawyer that offers fixed, predetermined and – critically – fair rates for their services. If a lawyer is opaque with their pricing, you should probably take your business elsewhere, lest you find hidden fees later in the process.
Ideally, you should find a firm that offers legal real estate services 7 days a week, in case you have issues on the weekends. Your real estate lawyer should be properly credentialed (at a minimum) with specific expertise and experience in real estate. And, finally, their reputation should precede them; they should have a bevy of good reviews, testimonials and articles to back up their client service.
The question “do you need a real estate lawyer?” is in a similar category as “do you need a realtor?”. Again, no rules state you do, but for the marginal price it costs you and the mountainous help and protection they provide, it should be an easy “yes.”