When is a Real Estate Lawyer Worth the Cost?

A real estate lawyer is a lawyer who provides legal advice and assistance to you during the process of buying or selling a home. While it may seem like an expense that is not worth including in the cost of your property transaction, the assistance of a lawyer can often save you money and protect your interests.

In some states, including New York, having a real estate lawyer is required in order to complete the transaction. When choosing an attorney to represent you, be sure to choose someone who specializes in real estate law. It is the best way to ensure that you will have the most protection.

What can a real estate lawyer do?

Your lawyer will assist you in several ways. The most important service they offer is the review of the purchase agreement. Not only does your lawyer make sure that the other party has not overlooked critical details but your lawyer can also make sure that specific wording is used that protects you in the event of default or financial changes.

A lawyer can also assist you if there are disagreements after the purchase offer is accepted, whether you are the buyer or the seller. If you are buying a property and something about the property changes materially, your lawyer will work on your behalf to resolve the issue. For example, if the seller removes all the light fixtures, curtains, or appliances even though they were supposed to remain, your lawyer can address the situation. Your lawyer will also work to make sure all other liens against the property have been completely satisfied.

In many cases, your lawyer will prepare a title documents and warranty deed that traces the history of the ownership of the house and provides you with a very detailed document of ownership. You can even give your lawyer a power of attorney to sign the paperwork on your behalf to close on the sale, which is ideal when you are not in town for the transaction.

How much does a real estate lawyer cost?

Real estate lawyers typically charge a flat fee for their services related to the purchase or sale of your home, but some charge a percentage. Be sure to shop around as fees can vary greatly from one attorney to another. Attorneys who specialize in real estate can often offer a less costly service because they achieve economies of scale. If you are unsure about how to find a real estate attorney, ask for a referral from your mortgage lender or real estate agent, or talk to a friend or family member who has recently been involved in a real estate transaction.

If you have found the perfect house and do not want to wait to make an offer for fear of losing it to another buyer, but have not yet retained a real estate attorney, make the offer. Stipulate on the contract that your offer is contingent on the home and the agreement must be reviewed by your lawyer.

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