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Buying or selling real estate is a major decision—and a significant investment. If you factor in the complexity of real estate laws, even the smallest misstep could cost you money. This is why you might need a real estate attorney for certain transactions, or a real estate lawyer, to navigate all the necessary legal requirements. They can also help you avoid potential landmines, so that you can protect your real estate investment.
Here are the different services offered by real estate attorneys and the scenarios when it makes sense to hire one—or when you might not need to.
What Is a Real Estate Attorney?
A real estate attorney is a licensed professional who handles the legal responsibilities related to real estate transactions. The attorney can represent the buyer, seller or lender’s interests. One of their main duties is to prepare and review the relevant paperwork needed for the sale and purchase of the property.
What a Real Estate Attorney Does
The services offered by real estate lawyers vary. Some work on transactions related to commercial buildings, such as office space; others focus on the development, sale and purchasing of residential housing; and some have more general expertise involving all types of property.
Here are some of the tasks the real estate attorney can do during a transaction.
Negotiate Real Estate Deals
The real estate attorney conducts due diligence by ensuring terms are included in the deal that protect your interests. They also advise so the transaction meets state and federal laws.
Draft and Review Real Estate Contracts
The attorney makes sure the contract—such as the purchase, mortgage or rental agreement—is airtight and includes all the legal requirements and terms needed.
Carry Out Title Searches
Real estate attorneys also conduct title searches. A title search is necessary in many situations to ensure that:
- The seller has the legal right to transfer the property to the buyer
- There are no liens against the property
- There are no ongoing issues that affect the buyer’s ability to take possession of the property
- There are no restrictive covenants or zoning ordinances limiting land use
- All property taxes have been paid
Draft Title Insurance Policies
A title insurance policy covers any third-party claims on a property that comes up after the real estate transaction has closed and was not uncovered during the initial title search. In addition to writing title insurance policies, a real estate attorney can also review the policy for exclusions and exceptions that aren’t covered.
Prepare Closing Documents
The real estate attorney can handle the loan closing process as well as making sure all the documents needed—like the deed and closing statement—are filed properly.
Take Care of Real Estate Disputes and Litigation
The attorney may represent you in a real estate dispute—either negotiating a settlement or representing you at trial if it escalates to litigation.
Act as a Representative in Foreclosure Actions
Real estate attorneys are also needed in judicial foreclosures, which is when the lender files a foreclosure lawsuit in court to take possession of a property whose owner has not been making loan payments.
Deal With Zoning and Land Use Issues
Local governments have specific regulations governing land use. Areas are zoned for single-family homes, apartment buildings, commercial use only or mixed-use. A real estate attorney can help a property owner or prospective buyer petition to change how the land is used or represent other owners to fight against a rezoning.
Related: What Is A Land Lease?
File Quiet Title Actions
If an issue is uncovered during the title search, one that the real estate attorney can’t fix by correcting the title in the public records, then a quiet title action has to be filed. This is a lawsuit that names all the parties that might have a claim to the property, putting them on notice to respond or have their rights voided by the court.
Draft and Review of Leases and Subleases
Real estate attorneys help draft leases and subleases for both residential and commercial properties. They can also review them on your behalf to ensure there are no potentially problematic terms.
Construction Loans and Contracts
A real estate attorney can help negotiate and draft a construction…
News Read More: What Does A Real Estate Attorney Do?