Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney to Sell Your House?

By: ROS Team

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Selling and/or buying property is not something most people do very often. As a result, most people lack an understanding of the necessary legal information around real estate transactions to fully understand the terms of a real estate agreement. This is when hiring a real estate attorney would prove helpful.

Of course, whether or not you need a real estate attorney to sell your house depends on where you live and your level of understanding of the real estate laws in your state.

Hiring a real estate attorney prior to buying or selling property is mandatory in some states but not in others.

Let’s look at the states where a real estate attorney is required and then explore possible options in the event you don’t want to hire an attorney.

States that Require a Real Estate Attorney

If you live in any of the following states, you will have to hire a real estate attorney whether you buy or sell a property. These states include:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

What If I Live In Any Other State?

If you don’t live in any of the above mentioned states, you’re not required to have a lawyer before buying or selling a home.

However, you should understand that buying or selling a home requires a lot of legal work, and managing both the legal aspects and the logistics of moving can be exhausting and time consuming. Therefore, hiring a lawyer becomes more of a need than an option. Furthermore, by working with an attorney, you can be assured that all agreements included in the transaction are legally sound.

Attorney

When You Might Need An Attorney

Having a good real estate attorney at your disposable is a good idea even if you live in a state where an attorney isn’t required. They especially come in handy if you run into any of the following circumstances:

  • There is a lien on the property you want to buy;
  • The property has more than one owner/titleholder;
  • You are selling a home as a short sale with the consent of your lender; or
  • You are selling an inherited property that has more than one heir.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

Pros

  • Although real estate agents possess negotiation skills, lawyers know the law. They can also apply more pressure during negotiations given their legal experience.
  • Real estate attorneys see all kinds of real estate cases and agreements. They also know what could go wrong in any deal. Based on their experience, they can help ensure the agreement you sign is legally sound and protects you from any future legal risk.

Cons

  • Even though they know the legal aspects of the agreement, real estate attorneys are not price negotiators. That is the job of a real estate agent. So, in trying to save money and asking an attorney to negotiate in place of an agent, you might end up losing more money.
  • When lawyers charge you on an hourly basis, you have to be very careful in utilizing their time wisely or else you will be paying a massive bill. Discuss billable hours with your attorney before asking them for help.

How To Find a Real Estate Attorney

Whether you live in a state where you have to hire a real estate attorney or you want to hire one for peace of mind, finding an experienced attorney can be tricky.  Here are a few tips to help you in your search:

  • Ask Your Agent

In the majority of the cases, a seller will hire an agent right after they decide to list their home. In that case, ask your agent if he or she knows of an experienced attorney that they’d feel comfortable recommending.  Agents are involved in real estate agreements every day and have met and/or worked with lawyers on past real estate transactions.

  • Get a Referral From a Friend

If you know a friend who has recently sold a property or knows someone out of personal connection, ask them to connect you with an attorney.

Look Online

  • Look Online

There are dozens of websites dedicated to real estate. Those sites often include a section where previous clients can rate and review any broker, agent, or attorney who assisted them.  Review those platforms for a list of attorneys who may be able to assist you with your purchase or sale.

Pro Tip: There is no substitute for experience, and hiring an experienced lawyer is key.  Look for an attorney who has several years of real estate experience instead of opting to save a few dollars by hiring an amateur lawyer.

Conclusion:

Hiring an attorney can be expensive, so if you live in a state that mandates that you have one before starting a real estate transaction make sure you include legal fees into your budget. An attorney’s average hourly rate will vary depending on where you live and the complexity of the transaction.  Do some research to get a list of experienced real estate attorneys who charge reasonable rates in your area.

Read Also: Knowing When to Engage a Real Estate Attorney