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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Real Estate Attorney

What Is a Real Estate Attorney?

A real estate attorney is an attorney who is licensed to practice real estate law. The primary role of a real estate attorney is to ensure the legal transfer of property from a seller to a buyer.

Some states require a real estate attorney (also called a real estate lawyer) to be present at closing. Even if their state does not require one, some buyers and sellers hire a real estate attorney to represent their interests in the purchase or sale of a home, building, or property.

What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

A real estate attorney reviews all closing documents and is present at the closing to represent the client's interests. The attorney's duties can vary depending on state laws and what is needed for each particular real estate transaction.

During a real estate purchase, the attorney may prepare all necessary legal documents, write title insurance policies, complete title searches, and handle the transfer of funds to complete the purchase. The attorney is responsible for all financing paperwork and transfer of funds documentation for the buyer's lender.

A real estate attorney also provides legal advice on property management, zoning violations, restrictions and agreements on real estate, property taxes, and value estimates. This legal professional also handles disputes, such as those involving boundaries, trespassing, encroachment, and injuries.

How Much Does a Real Estate Attorney Cost?

Most real estate attorneys charge a fixed hourly fee for their services. The rate can range from $150 to $350 per hour, depending on the location, experience, and skill set of the attorney in question. Some real estate attorneys charge a flat rate for their services. This fee can range from $500 to $1,500.

Rates tend to be higher for real estate lawyers in elite law firms and major metropolitan areas.

When Should You Hire a Real Estate Attorney?

Currently, eight states require a real estate attorney to be present at closing. Known as "attorney closing states," the states are Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Seven states are "attorney title opinion states," meaning a lawyer must certify the title in a real estate transaction. These states include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Four states do not require real estate attorneys, but local custom makes their presence at closings commonplace. These states are Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

In all other states, it's up to each buyer and seller to decide if they want to hire a real estate attorney. Here are some situations when buyers or sellers might want to have legal representation in a real estate transaction:

  • a complex situation like a foreclosure, short sale, estate sale, or auction purchase
  • a neighboring structure crosses over the property line
  • the property is in another state
  • the property is part of a divorce settlement
  • the property is part of a family member's estate
  • the property has significant issues, such as structural damage
  • the property has liens on it

In some circumstances, a mortgage lender may require a real estate attorney to be involved in the property transaction.

How Can You Become a Real Estate Attorney?

To become a real estate lawyer, you must earn a Bachelor's degree plus a law degree, which typically takes three years for a full-time student. Specific training in real estate law often begins in law school with real estate courses and internships.

The next step is to pass the state bar exam administered by the state in which the lawyer plans to practice. Continuing education courses are an advantage for working in this area of the law.

Real estate attorneys can gain new skills and insights by joining the American Bar Association's Real Property, Trust, and Estate Law Section and their state's real estate attorney associations.

Helpful Resources:

NerdWallet - What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

SmartAsset - What Does a Real Estate Lawyer Do?

Rocket Homes - Real Estate Attorneys: What Do They Do?

Forbes Advisor - Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney When Buying or Selling A House?

US News - Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney?

What Is a Real Estate Attorney?

A real estate attorney is an attorney who is licensed to practice real estate law. The primary role of a real estate attorney is to ensure the legal transfer of property from a seller to a buyer.

Some states require a real estate attorney (also called a real estate lawyer) to be present at closing. Even if their state does not require one, some buyers and sellers hire a real estate attorney to represent their interests in the purchase or sale of a home, building, or property.

What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

A real estate attorney reviews all closing documents and is present at the closing to represent the client's interests. The attorney's duties can vary depending on state laws and what is needed for each particular real estate transaction.

During a real estate purchase, the attorney may prepare all necessary legal documents, write title insurance policies, complete title searches, and handle the transfer of funds to complete the purchase. The attorney is responsible for all financing paperwork and transfer of funds documentation for the buyer's lender.

A real estate attorney also provides legal advice on property management, zoning violations, restrictions and agreements on real estate, property taxes, and value estimates. This legal professional also handles disputes, such as those involving boundaries, trespassing, encroachment, and injuries.

How Much Does a Real Estate Attorney Cost?

Most real estate attorneys charge a fixed hourly fee for their services. The rate can range from $150 to $350 per hour, depending on the location, experience, and skill set of the attorney in question. Some real estate attorneys charge a flat rate for their services. This fee can range from $500 to $1,500.

Rates tend to be higher for real estate lawyers in elite law firms and major metropolitan areas.

When Should You Hire a Real Estate Attorney?

Currently, eight states require a real estate attorney to be present at closing. Known as "attorney closing states," the states are Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

Seven states are "attorney title opinion states," meaning a lawyer must certify the title in a real estate transaction. These states include Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Four states do not require real estate attorneys, but local custom makes their presence at closings commonplace. These states are Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio.

In all other states, it's up to each buyer and seller to decide if they want to hire a real estate attorney. Here are some situations when buyers or sellers might want to have legal representation in a real estate transaction:

  • a complex situation like a foreclosure, short sale, estate sale, or auction purchase
  • a neighboring structure crosses over the property line
  • the property is in another state
  • the property is part of a divorce settlement
  • the property is part of a family member's estate
  • the property has significant issues, such as structural damage
  • the property has liens on it

In some circumstances, a mortgage lender may require a real estate attorney to be involved in the property transaction.

How Can You Become a Real Estate Attorney?

To become a real estate lawyer, you must earn a Bachelor's degree plus a law degree, which typically takes three years for a full-time student. Specific training in real estate law often begins in law school with real estate courses and internships.

The next step is to pass the state bar exam administered by the state in which the lawyer plans to practice. Continuing education courses are an advantage for working in this area of the law.

Real estate attorneys can gain new skills and insights by joining the American Bar Association's Real Property, Trust, and Estate Law Section and their state's real estate attorney associations.

Helpful Resources:

NerdWallet - What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

SmartAsset - What Does a Real Estate Lawyer Do?

Rocket Homes - Real Estate Attorneys: What Do They Do?

Forbes Advisor - Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney When Buying or Selling A House?

US News - Do You Need a Real Estate Attorney?