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When Do I Need a Real Estate Lawyer?

A real estate lawyer performs many important functions. Knowing when you may need the assistance of a real estate lawyer may help you avoid potential problems.

Role of a Real Estate Lawyer

A real estate lawyer may perform a number of critical functions. He or she can review contracts to determine if there are any potential risks included in them that the client is unaware of. Additionally, he or she can ensure that certain provisions are included in real estate contracts to protect the client’s interests. He or she may help prepare contracts related to the purchase or sale of residential or commercial real estate. Additionally, a lawyer can review or draft potential contracts related to restrictive covenants, easements, buyback provisions or leases.

Real estate lawyers can also prepare deeds to legally effectuate the transfer of ownership. They may also review a chain of title to determine whether there are any clouds on the title that would affect the value of the property.

Importance of Having a Real Estate Lawyer

A real estate lawyer is focused only on protecting the client’s interests. Real estate agents may be more concerned about getting the deal to go through so that they can be paid their commission. Additionally, some real estate agents represent both the buyer and the seller involved in a real estate transaction, creating an inherent conflict of interest. For many people, purchasing a home is their most expensive purchase in their life so hiring a real estate lawyer is a practical thing to do to avoid major mistakes that may adversely affect the client. Therefore, it is usually a good idea to hire a real estate lawyer.

Some additional reasons to hire a real estate lawyer include:

Abide by the Law

In some jurisdictions, it is a legal requirement to involve a real estate lawyer in a transaction regarding real estate. These states view the involvement of other professionals instead of a real estate lawyer as an unauthorized practice of law. These states include North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Delaware and Georgia. These states require a real estate lawyer to provide oversight and direction when conducting a real estate transfer. This includes from the very beginning to review the title as well as to the end when signing documents. Alabama requires a lawyer to draft deeds, mortgage documents and promissory notes but allows him or her to pass off the title search and issuance of title insurance to a non-lawyer. In these states, the client has the right to choose his or her legal counsel.

Understand Complexities

Although it is always a good idea to consult with a real estate lawyer when conducting real estate transactions, it is critical to do so when the issues involved are complex. Complexities may arise in cases involving oil and gas rights, water rights, beachfront properties, properties subject to easements or restrictive covenants, historical properties, zoning disputes or adverse possession claims.

Having a real estate lawyer involved in these types of cases is more cost-effective in the long run because he or she can explain the legal issues and potential implications involved in the transaction. Additionally, these cases may involve state and federal laws that he or she can review to ensure the client is compliant.

High Value Property

Another critical time to hire a real estate lawyer is when the property involved in the transaction is valuable. Individuals who are sinking substantial funds into a property out of their personal savings or because the property is an investment should ensure that the property will maintain its value and be a good investment. Additionally, a real estate lawyer can ensure that provisions are included in the contract to protect the buyer’s investment, such as by requiring a complete home inspection and lawyer review. If any issues arise during this process, the lawyer can negotiate with the seller. There may also be other attachments to the property, such as liens, judgments or encumbrances and a lawyer can investigate the existence of these and their effect on the transaction.

When Legal Issues Arise

During the course of a real estate transaction, legal issues may arise. A buyer may find an illegal addition has been added to a home. A new zoning ordinance may thwart the purpose of the transaction. If tenants are living in the property, a real estate lawyer should be able to explain how this affects the transaction. A real estate lawyer can untangle legal issues and explain the client’s rights to him or her.

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