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Do I need a Real Estate Attorney to Sell My House?

sell my house

Are you wondering if you need a real estate attorney to sell your house? The answer is, it depends on where you live. Some states allow you the freedom to transact on your own. Meanwhile, other states impose a legal requirement for you to utilize a real estate attorney.

For instance, in Rhode Island, you are required to seek the counsel of a licensed real estate lawyer to close all real estate transactions within its borders. This is a stark contrast to other states which allow title companies to handle escrow and closing details.

If you want to save on attorney fees, you can do so when it is a pretty straightforward transaction like a single-family home with no other issues. An experienced real estate agent, if your state allows, is already well-versed in local law and can assist you in the sale every step of the way.

However, in general, especially if you are dealing with tons of details, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer. Real estate lawyers typically charge a professional fee of $150 to $350 per hour. Some offer a flat rate or package for straightforward paperwork. Even if it is not mandatory in your state, this is something you should look into. Learn more about this below:

Why Do You Need a Lawyer to Sell Your House?

You must hire a real estate attorney if your state laws mandate it. Each state that requires lawyers has several reasons for imposing this rule. But one common objective for this regulatory protocol is to protect the integrity of the home sale. In addition, a lawyer will also protect the client’s best interests. These are the states that require you to have a real estate lawyer for every step of the property sale:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York North
  • Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

The laws change swiftly, so always ask your real estate agent for updates. A reputable licensed agent will know if your state requires you to have a real estate attorney at any point during the sale of your home.

What Can Real Estate Lawyers Do For You?

Real estate lawyers have taken coursework, done reviews, aced the bar exams, and taken specializations. They assist both property sellers and buyers in their real estate transactions. The lawyers ensure your transactions meet all the requirements stipulated in the law.

Most real estate lawyers possess a lot of experience in contract law. However, this does not qualify any state-licensed lawyer to act as a realtor, real estate agent, or broker. For this reason, the latter is a profession on its own because all agents and brokers are required to earn real estate licenses in the state where they practice. For instance, a real estate attorney cannot negotiate the price or terms of sale for you like a real estate agent. They can only advise on potential legal issues.

That being said, a real estate lawyer functions as a vital alley for your real estate agent. If you need a reliable real estate attorney, your real estate agent can connect you with one. Here are a few more examples of what a real estate lawyer can do for you:

  • Identify potential sources of issues with contingencies in a real estate contract
  • Provide guidance on what to do regarding complex issues such as selling a home with an impending divorce or putting up a home for sale when the property owners are deceased
  • Keep an eye out for loopholes in the purchase agreement and advice on how to proceed with closing
  • Review the offer of different buyers to assess if there are any legal issues, like potential long-term legal problems that could arise with a faulty or incomplete purchase agreement
  • Helps with closing by reviewing documents and addressing any surprises

Why You Should Hire a Real Estate Lawyer Even If It Is Optional?

Even though hiring the services of a real estate lawyer is not required in your state, you should consider seeking the advice of one for your protection. You need a real estate lawyer when you sell your property to watch out for your needs and interests. And, you truly must not scrimp on a lawyer’s advice if you are facing one or more of the following issues:

Doing a for sale by owner

This “for sale by owner” selling approach means you do not have any real estate agent to guide you every step of the way. Thus, you must hire a real estate lawyer to prepare a purchase agreement, fix essential paperwork, and ensure you are compliant with state laws regarding home sales. Your lawyer must be well-versed in the following:

  • Closing
  • Contingencies
  • Title issues
  • Inspections

Property has many unique issues

If you are facing issues on right of way, boundary disputes, or questionable easements, you need legal assistance. Your lawyer can help you clear out any of these issues because you want a clean title and no problems when you sell the house. Besides, if your property has a federal lien levied on it, you must clear this issue first before selling. Otherwise, your transaction can get delayed or may fall through.

Going through separation or divorce

If you have a conjugal property and you are parting ways, whether amicably or not, hiring a real estate lawyer will protect you. Your attorney is an alley who can make you see the bigger picture. Should your party intend to buy you out or split the proceeds, your lawyer can ascertain you get what is right and fair. The lawyer can do the following:

  • Settle the terms in your property split
  • Enforce prenuptial agreement concerning the property
  • Process the property’s deed

Selling a home that is rented

If the current property has active renters, you need to lawyer up to know your rights as well as your tenants’ rights. A real estate lawyer can help prevent potential issues and protect you from being sued.

Doing the correct steps and having paperwork on hand prevents litigation. If you have tenants, you must provide adequate notice before selling the property.

Facing foreclosure or short sale

Are you selling a house for less than what you owe your mortgage? This is called a short sale. Your lender may have also foreclosed on the property and is forcing a sale. When faced with these scenarios, a real estate attorney can help you out.

Look for one that has a lot of experience with financially-distressed properties. You will be surprised that this service is not as exorbitantly priced as you think. Your attorney can advocate for you and secure the best terms with your lender.

Dilapidated property

If you are selling an older home that needs a lot of repairs, and you do not want to deal with any of them because you have no cash, a lawyer can help facilitate a seamless transaction. As the seller, you must disclose any potential issues, or you can get sued.

The lawyer can help you deal with any contingencies, especially if the potential buyers request deductions in the sale price if they fix up the place. Alternatively, the lawyer can draft a for sale as-is contract that absolves you from any potential hassles.

Selling an inherited property from a deceased owner

If you inherited your house from a deceased relative, you may need a real estate lawyer, especially if there is no living trust. You cannot sell property, even if you are the rightful heir. It is vital to undergo probate before you can sell any assets.

If there is will or trust, a probate attorney with extensive real estate experience can help facilitate its execution. The lawyer will help you comprehend the stipulations in the trust, ensure you abide by it, and confirm our right to sell the property. If there are multiple inheritors, such as several siblings, a lawyer will represent your interests.

Property is commercial

Commercial property can be tricky, so you need a real estate lawyer. Work with someone who specializes in commercial real estate laws since these are often more complicated. It opens more risks than single-family home transactions. Besides, commercial properties also involve higher amounts of money than straightforward home sales.

Thus, the stakes can be very high. You cannot afford to make a mistake because of the extensive repercussions. A real estate lawyer can provide in-depth assistance to unravel the complexities of the transaction. After all, you could be facing the following:

  • Handling multiple income streams such as several units of rental properties
  • Navigating more complex zoning laws in a commercial district
  • Addressing environmental laws on the commercial property’s impact on the immediate area

Find a Reputable Professional to Work With

Usually, your gut will kick in when something feels amiss during the home sale. Never disregard your instincts because they are usually right. Having an attorney to double-check every detail will provide you peace of mind. Although you will pay for their services, it is well worth it, especially if you can rest easy knowing the transaction is smooth, freeing you from potential litigation.

If you need to find a reputable attorney, seek help from your real estate agent. Usually, your realtor will have extensive experience on common issues in a home sale. For example, our team of real estate agents can alert you when something feels amiss with the transaction. We have many real estate lawyers in our network of industry partners. Hence, we can connect you with one right away. Do not hesitate to call us at RI Homestore or fill out this form for a free consultation.

Comments (2)

  • Thank you for explaining that a lawyer can help you with selling an older home in need of a lot of repairs. I’ve been wondering if I should hire a lawyer to help with selling my mothers old house. It’s fallen into disrepair, so I’m sure they could offer some much needed help.

    • Hi Olivia, you’re welcome! I would also recommend speaking with a realtor as well to give you a property evaluation. I’d be happy to speak with you.