Expertise.com
2024

Real Estate Law Resources & FAQs

Whether you're looking to buy your first home or you need help with a complex real estate transaction, these resources have been curated to help you decide the best course of action and find the best attorney for your case.

I Think I Need a Lawyer

Do you need a real estate lawyer? These resources have been curated to help you decide whether you should hire a real estate attorney or not and how much it may cost to do so.

Real Estate Law Basics

Looking for a refresher on land use law or how to find your property boundaries? These resources can help you decide if you have a case worth pursuing with the help of an expert real estate attorney.

State-Specific Real Estate Laws

Homestead laws, adverse possession rules, and more for each state.

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FAQs

  • What does a real estate attorney do?

    Real estate attorneys are responsible for preparing and reviewing transactional documents and helping clients with the closing process. They draft purchase agreements, perform title searches, write title insurance policies, disburse funds, and prepare federally mandated HUD-1 settlement statements. They can also help clients understand the tax implications of selling a home. In the case of a dispute between the buyer, seller, or a third party, real estate attorneys also defend clients in court. Even if there is no identifiable dispute over the transaction, an attorney will make sure everyone “plays by the rules” during the purchase or sale.

  • Can I purchase property without a real estate attorney?

    In some cases, it’s possible to purchase residential or commercial real estate without consulting a real estate lawyer. However, legal representation is required in approximately 20 states, and some jurisdictions require a lawyer to be present at the closing. Usually, real estate attorneys take over once real estate agents have an offer in hand. Buyers are encouraged to consult an attorney when purchasing damaged or bank-owned property or real estate located in high-risk areas. Attorneys can also assist out-of-town buyers and negotiate favorable solutions if liens, structural issues, or legal challenges crop up during the procurement.

  • What does a real estate attorney do for a buyer/seller?

    Real estate transactions may seem cut and dried, but it’s common for unforeseen difficulties to arise. Attorneys who represent buyers or sellers can facilitate a successful transaction while protecting their clients’ interests and preventing costly mistakes. On the buyer’s side, attorneys can provide advice related to financing, estate planning, tax law, and first-time home buyer credits. Real estate attorneys can also help sellers who are dealing with challenges due to liens, structural damage, probate disputes, or uncooperative partners.

  • What’s the difference between real estate and property?

    Real estate includes land, permanent structures, and natural resources, such as water, minerals, and trees. Property typically describes personal items and belongings that aren’t permanently attached to land. The transfer of real property includes the bundle of legal rights, which give landowners the freedom to possess or occupy the property, enjoy their land without interference, restrict others’ access to the property, and dispose of their ownership rights as they see fit.

  • What happens when a real estate lawyer puts a lien on you?

    In most cases, liens stay attached to the property until the debt is satisfied or the debtor files for bankruptcy. The creditor’s rights vary depending on whether the lien is voluntary or involuntary. Additionally, if a lien has been perfected, that lienholder has priority over other creditors. Voluntary liens are most common when homeowners use their property as collateral against a secured loan. Involuntary liens are typically related to back taxes, court judgments, and child support. Properties are also subject to involuntary mechanic’s or materialman’s liens in case a customer or contractor fails to pay for materials or labor. Liens don’t necessarily prevent someone from transferring property, but most buyers want a title that’s free and clear.

  • What does a real estate lawyer do at closing?

    Lawyers perform critical functions during every stage of the closing process. They draft and review documents, negotiate contracts, and finalize all of the details needed to close the sale. Attorneys who represent buyers can negotiate the terms of sales contracts, including contingencies, perform title searches to ensure that the seller can legally transfer ownership, and resolve issues related to third-party claims, liens, and easements. They can also assist with loan paperwork, title insurance, and other financial matters, such as taxes and transfer fees. Real estate attorneys who represent sellers are responsible for handling deeds, insurance declarations, and payoff letters.

  • Do I need a lawyer to sell my house privately?

    Not necessarily. Some states require a real estate attorney to be present at the closing, but there are some situations when you might consider hiring one even if it's optional where you live. Examples might include:

    • You're selling the house with an uncooperative partner
    • You've inherited a property from an owner who is now deceased
    • You anticipate tax consequences

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