Guide to Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

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If you’re about to enter into a real estate transaction, perhaps buying or selling a property, or if you’re in a situation involving real estate where you could benefit from assistance to protect your interests, you very well may need the help of a real estate attorney. In some states, the participation of an attorney is actually required to close a real estate transfer.

No matter the specifics of your situation, this guide will help you to pick the right lawyer for your situation. 

Finding a Real Estate Lawyer

When you’re dealing with a real estate transaction, multiple areas of law can come into play—and, because buying or selling your home can be one of the largest, most complex financial transactions you will ever be involved in, having a real estate attorney at your side can be an invaluable resource. 

For example, you could run into problems if the wrong legal description of the property is listed on a document. And, there isn’t just one document to check for that. There’s the title to the property, title insurance documents, the deed, land survey, and mortgage loan documents, among others. 

Even when the documents are accurately written and executed, that doesn’t mean the transaction will go smoothly. In fact, the parties involved sometimes end up in court. When that happens, a real estate attorney can represent you—and these are just a few of the scenarios where getting a real estate attorney can be crucial.

Now, before we go into any more depth on the subject, if you’re a member of the Family Defender™ legal benefits plan, and are ready to choose a real estate attorney from your network, please call us at 1-800-356-5297 for assistance.

If you’re not a member of a legal benefits plan, then it typically makes sense to start the search process by asking friends and family members for recommendations. Although not all of them will have used this type of attorney, you may be surprised by how many have. As you’re given names of potential choices, put them on a list. 

If you feel comfortable reaching out for recommendations via your social media accounts, then this can be a way to cast your nets even wider. If you decide to ask for recommendations on social media, be sure to list the state where the attorney needs to practice.

You can also contact the local bar association in your area and ask for recommendations. At this point, you may notice that you’re getting duplicates in your list. That’s natural, and you may notice that a couple of different names are repeatedly being given to you.

At this point, it can make sense to review the websites of the attorneys on that list. By doing so, you may eliminate some of them, perhaps because something you read indicates that this firm doesn’t handle your type of situation, or you might remove them from the list for another reason. 

You can also read online reviews of the attorneys you’re considering, with the caveat that it’s virtually impossible to satisfy everyone. In general, unhappy people may be more motivated to post a review than satisfied clients; so, you can use the reviews as a tool for discernment, but don’t solely rely upon them.  

Questions to Ask

It isn’t unusual for attorneys, including ones specializing in real estate, to offer free consultations where you can ask them high-level questions. This isn’t the time to delve into the nitty-gritty details of your situation, but it can be used to help make sure you’re choosing the right attorney for your needs.

This is, for example, the right time to make sure the real estate attorney you’re talking to can handle the type of legal matters you need to address. These issues can range from when you’re buying a house to when you’re selling one, including but not limited to a sale by owner transaction. They can also include when you have an issue with a potential property encroachment, when there are questions about whether a structure is up to code, when you’re going through a foreclosure process, or when you need representation in court over a real estate matter. 

No matter the specifics of your situation, now would be the time to make sure the attorney you’re talking to could handle this particular legal issue. Additional questions you might ask include:

  • Can you share what the process would be like with this real estate closing (or whatever other issue you have)? 
  • How long will it take? 
  • In what ways will you help me?
  • How much will this cost?
  • Do you charge by the hour or a fixed fee per project?
  • Is it possible that extra fees will be charged? If so, what and why?

You can then compare the answers given by attorneys, and it also makes sense to pay attention to how willing each one is to answer your questions and how clear those answers are. Then, you can make an informed choice.

Benefits of a Real Estate Attorney

For one thing, although there are other professionals who can help with real estate-related matters, an attorney is the only one who is legally obligated to proceed with your best interests at heart. Real estate agents, for example, are trained to manage most aspects of a home sale, but cannot provide you with legal advice. 

In today’s competitive real estate market, if you’re buying a home, it can be tempting to rush through making your offer; if you’re selling, and it’s been taking longer than you’d hoped, it can be equally as tempting to accept an offer that may not have all the right elements in place for you. When represented by a real estate attorney, though, you can have your interests protected.

Here are just a couple of more specific examples to consider. If you’re buying a piece of property, and something about the deal isn’t appropriately set up, you could end up agreeing to purchase something that, say, is in much poorer condition that was represented to you. A real estate attorney can prevent that by adding a clause that allows you to cancel the contract if the property doesn’t pass an inspection. The attorney can also protect you by reviewing contracts to make sure, for example, you aren’t agreeing to pay for fees not usually paid by a buyer.

If you’re selling a property, your attorney can word a contract appropriately to protect you from liability or to provide protection so that your buyer can’t simply decide to not go through with the deal.

When you hire an attorney who knows the ins and outs of local codes and zoning laws, then his or her expertise can be crucial. A knowledgeable and experienced real estate lawyer can save you the time and potential heartache that’s involved when you try to research and understand these by yourself. 

One Big Challenge with Hiring

You may go through the process of vetting real estate lawyers and come up with someone whom you’d really like to hire. But, you can’t necessarily afford that attorney’s fees. 

The reality is that lawyer fees vary greatly, with some charging their clients an hourly rate, and others charging a fixed rate for a service, possibly charging hourly fees for add-ons. In general, you might pay $150 to $350 per hour for attorneys who prefer an hourly fee, and somewhere between $500 to $1,500, for example, for a typical real estate closing.

Overall, it’s normal to need to pay more for a real estate attorney if you’re in the middle of a legal dispute with someone else than if you’re hiring the attorney for a straightforward transaction. And, if the dispute results in a lawsuit, the costs for representation will go up. 

Bottom line: even though you may find an attorney you’d like to hire, you may not be able to afford the fees. That’s where a legal benefits plan comes in.

How U.S. Legal Services Can Help

As a member of Family Defender™, you will have affordable access to a real estate attorney licensed in your state, simply by paying a low monthly fee for your legal benefits plan. As a member, you’ll have access to a range of legal and financial services that can protect you and your family. 

Family Defender™ is a voluntary benefits plan, meaning it’s one that employers can offer employees. The plan comes at no cost to the company and is easy to implement and administer.        

You can compare this plan to those that offer access to preventive medical or dental care, with ours offering affordable access to preventive law. Companies can put together Family Defender™ plans that fits their needs, so specifics of coverage can vary. Other areas of coverage can include divorce, child support and custody, traffic violations, debt/financial matters, lawsuits, estate planning, and more.

Employers, we invite you to contact us online today or call us at 1.800.356.LAWS.