Real estate attorneys oversee the legal work involved in buying or selling property to ensure the interests and rights of the client are preserved. A buyer’s attorney checks the sales contract, or the legal document committing the buyer to purchase the home, to make sure the buyer is protected. The attorney checks the title, or chain of ownership to the property, for any problems or liabilities, such as liens. All mortgage loan documents and legal papers for the purchase are verified and filed by the attorney. A seller’s attorney will check the sales contract to protect the seller and address any title issues that arise, arrange for any final payoffs for existing loans and prepare the necessary documents to transfer ownership of the property.
- The Importance of a Real Estate Specialty – Some states allow any lawyer admitted to the local bar association or recognized by the state as an attorney to engage in real estate transactions with minimal or no additional training. Attorneys who are unfamiliar with the complexities of real estate transactions in the area may encounter problems when overseeing a real estate transfer. A real estate attorney is a lawyer whose primary practice is real estate. The lawyer may work in other areas of law, but the main focus is on residential or commercial real estate transactions.
- Requirements – Different areas require particular sets of paperwork and forms for all real estate transactions, and failure to use the correct papers can result in delays and loss of time and money in filing fees. Mortgage lenders can require a buyer use a real estate attorney in order to avoid mistakes. A buyer who is required to use an attorney for a loan and fails to may not be able to obtain funding for the purchase.
- Benefits – Real estate attorneys can protect a buyer or seller from financial loss. A sales contract that does not have a clause allowing termination for a failed inspection can cost a buyer hundreds of dollars to cancel if the home is found to have a major problem, such as mold. Loan documents with errors can cost the buyer time and money to resolve after the papers are signed. Sellers using a real estate attorney do not have to handle problems with the home’s title alone. A title defect can be cured by an attorney who is familiar with the issue. An attorney will ensure a seller’s interests are represented in the sales contract.
Responsibilities – The attorneys for the buyer and seller may not represent the bank if there is a mortgage loan involved. A third attorney can protect the interests of the bank, and the attorneys for the parties in the real estate transaction will work with the bank attorney to ensure all loan documents are executed properly. Not all real estate attorneys examine title, or check the chain of ownership for errors or potential liabilities. Some attorneys outsource title examining to a third party, such as a title agency.