Buying or selling real estate is not only one of the largest financial transactions most people will ever make, it may also be one of the most complex. Several areas of law can be involved in a real estate deal, making the assistance of an attorney in our legal insurance plan attorney network an invaluable resource.

Because the coverage included in your company’s or organization’s U.S. Legal Services legal insurance plan may vary, please check with your group’s administrator for specific benefit details.

How an Attorney Can Help

Real estate agents are trained to handle most aspects of a home purchase, but they cannot offer legal advice. Every state has its own requirements for which types of professionals should be involved in a transaction, and most states do not require you to work with an attorney. There are, however, some circumstances in which a residential real estate legal professional can play an important role. These may include such issues as ensuring that improvements on the property were built according to code, reviewing potential encroachments on neighboring or public property, and planning for contingencies should an inspection find serious issues with plumbing, the foundation, mold, etc.

Attorneys can assist with these transaction aspects and more:

Documents: To avoid problems at or after closing on your property, an attorney can review documents to ensure that there are no errors, such as an incorrect legal description of the property. Documents may include the title, title insurance, the deed, mortgage loan documents, and the land survey. The bill of sale should also be reviewed, as it details the personal property that is or is not included in the transaction.

Litigation: Not every real estate sale or purchase goes exactly as planned, and it’s not uncommon for some transactions to lead to a lawsuit. If your transaction doesn’t work out, an attorney can represent you in real estate litigation.

Foreclosures: The foreclosure process can be very complex as it may involve renegotiating a loan or negotiating a settlement agreement. A real estate attorney can help borrowers manage the financial and legal aspects of foreclosure proceedings.

FSBO sales or purchases: Every real estate transaction is, in part, a legal transaction. If you choose to handle a for-sale-by-owner transaction rather than working with a real estate agent, it’s especially important to have a legal professional ensure that you’re satisfying all of the legal requirements that a real estate deal may entail.

Consult with a Network Attorney

You can successfully handle the sale or purchase of property without the personal representation of an attorney, but having an experienced legal professional looking out for your best interests can help ensure a trouble-free transaction. U.S. Legal Services makes having an attorney on your side affordable and accessible, so consider consulting a network attorney the next time you’re planning to buy or sell real estate.

This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. Each situation and matter is unique and should be discussed with a U.S. Legal Services network attorney.

Real Estate Attorney FAQ

As the name suggests, a real estate attorney assists with issues associated with buying and selling property, as well as other matters connected with property ownership. For example, this type of attorney can review purchase agreements to make sure they don’t contain errors, such as an incorrect legal description of the property, and that they’re written and executed appropriately. He or she can also look for clauses that may be legally and accurately written, but aren’t in the best interests of a client. A real estate attorney can help with:
  • potential encroachments on neighboring property
  • making sure that structures and repairs are up to code
  • navigating the foreclosure process
  • buying or selling through a sale-by-owner transaction (one involving no real estate agent)
  • representing you in real estate lawsuits, and much more
With Family Defender™, you can have affordable access to these legal services.
When you buy a home or other piece of real estate, it’s probably one of the largest and potentially most complex financial transactions you’ll ever make. In fact, just one single real estate transaction can involve multiple areas of the law, which can make it quite challenging for someone to navigate without legal assistance. When you have an experienced real estate attorney at your side, though, this helps to ensure that the transaction is trouble free. Times when a real estate attorney can assist you include when you’re buying or selling property, or when legal issues arise in connection with the ownership of real estate—such as potential encroachments on an adjacent property or building code violations. This type of attorney can help if you’re facing foreclosure issues, or dealing with a lawsuit (plaintiff or defendant) in a case involving real estate law.
Fees for a real estate lawyer vary. Some charge clients hourly, with rates often ranging from $150 to $350. Other attorneys charge a fixed rate, and you can typically expect to pay $500 to $1,500 for, say, an attorney to assist in a real estate closing. You can, overall, expect to pay more for a situation involving a dispute than one where it’s fairly straightforward and contained. If the dispute turns into a lawsuit, then the cost of having a real estate lawyer represent you will increase. These costs illustrate how being a member of a legal benefits plan can help you to save money. With Family Defender™, you can have affordable access to a real estate attorney. The Family Defender™ plan has a low monthly fee, one that provides a range of legal and financial services to you and your family.
Some states require a real estate attorney to facilitate the closing of a real estate transaction. “Closing,” which is also known as a transaction’s settlement or completion, is the last step of the buying-selling process; when finalized, the property’s ownership transfers to the buyer. Real estate law changes, so do not use this list as definitive; states that have required a real estate attorney at closings include Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia. Rather than relying upon this list, check with your real estate agent or lender to find out specifics. Note, too, that if you’re a member of Family Defender™ by U.S. Legal Services, you can have affordable access to an experienced real estate attorney.
You’ll want a real estate attorney who is licensed with the state bar, knowledgeable about your state’s laws. This attorney should be experienced in handling the type of transaction or dispute that dovetails with your situation. You’ll want this attorney to be free of complaints or disciplinary actions, carrying a current malpractice policy. Finally, you’ll want one who is affordable, fitting your budget. Attorneys who charge hourly for their real estate law services often charge between $150 to $350 per hour—but, you can have access to experienced real estate lawyers if you’re a member of Family Defender™ by U.S. Legal Services. With this legal benefits plan, you’d pay a low monthly fee to have access to a real estate attorney who is licensed with the state bar with at least five years of experience, meeting all parameters listed in this FAQ.