What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?A real estate attorney helps with many aspects of the sale or purchase or refinancing of a real estate property. These include drafting and negotiating the contract, searching records to be sure the title is clean, clearing up any title problems uncovered, arranging for title insurance, checking that back taxes and any homeowners’ association fees have been paid, representing their client should any unexpected problems emerge, prorating the annual real estate tax payments, generating the closing disclosure (CD) and other closing documents, and overseeing the closing. After the closing the real estate attorney handles all post-closing matters like paying off the old mortgage and recording the proper documents. In some states, real estate attorneys are involved as a matter of course. In others, like Florida, title companies can serve some of these roles, but they cannot give legal advice or legally represent their client. That is why when buying or selling or refinancing a real estate property, hiring a real estate attorney is highly recommended.

Why Should You Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?

Although real estate agents, or Realtors, know a lot about the process involved with the sale or purchase of a real estate property, they cannot clear up title problems or offer legal advice on questions that may arise. For example, how can you sell your property if your mother, who is also on the deed, is no longer alive? Is the shed behind the house a legal one? Why is there still a lien on the property when you’ve paid off the home repairer you owed? Or, if you want to sell your home but stay in it for several months, you’ll need a real estate lawyer to negotiate and draft the terms. A real estate lawyer has experience dealing with the myriad issues that can crop up before–or even after–a closing. In some states, only an attorney is allowed to prepare the home purchase documents, perform a title search, and close the deal. But even if you live in a state where you aren’t required to have an attorney, it is smart to do so. Your real estate attorney will legally represent you during your deal. A home or condo is the most expensive thing you are likely to buy in your life; it makes sense to have a lawyer drafting and reviewing all papers and watching out for your interests.

Below is a summary of several aspects of your sale or purchase and how a real estate attorney may assist you:


When purchasing a real estate property an attorney will…

  • Negotiate and draft or review and explain to you the purchase contract, including the purchase amount, how you will take title on the property, and what kind of financing you are committing to.
  • Check that there are no covenants, easements, or liens registered against the property that will impede your purchase of or use of it.
  • Advise you of your responsibilities under the contract, including inspection, financing, and other deadlines
  • Prepare and review all the necessary legal documents.
  • Arrange title insurance protection to protect you from losses due to title defects.
  • Represent you if any issues or problems arise before or after the closing.
  • Oversee or attend the closing and review with you all the papers you will be required to sign.
  • Ensure the old mortgage is paid off and that the purchaser receives a valid deed (and, of course, the keys).

When selling a real estate property an attorney will…

  • Negotiate and draft or review and explain to you the purchase agreement.
  • Confirm that there are no covenants, easements, or liens registered against the property that will impede your sale.
  • Prepare the deed and other necessary legal documents.
  • Represent you if any issues or problems arise before or after the closing.
  • Calculate the adjustments of what each party will owe for annual taxes and utilities and other costs paid prior to the real estate transaction closing.
  • Oversee or attend the closing and review with you all the papers you will be required to sign.
  • Arrange for payments to be made to you and the old mortgage, if any, to be satisfied.
  • Issue and file all legal documents.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Real Estate Attorney?

The cost of a real estate attorney varies greatly, depending on the location, the price of the property, and whether they are representing the buyer or seller. Many lawyers charge a set amount for the entire closing, so you can ask for the fee up front, which shouldn’t change unless something major arises. If you do pay by the hour, you can ask for an estimate at the beginning, and even request a cap that the lawyer won’t go over. Most of the time, the fee for your lawyer is paid out at the time of the closing. Your real estate agent is likely familiar with the fees in your area, and can instruct you as to whether your real estate lawyer’s estimate is reasonable. Compared to the total investment involved in a typical real estate purchase, a reasonable attorney fee, where you have someone watching out for your interests and often saving you from being hit with unexpected fees from others involved in the deal, is well worth the cost.

Are you buying or selling a real estate property in South Florida? Contact The Law Office of Gary M. Landau by phone or email for a FREE consultation to learn more about our firm and how we can help you with your real estate purchase or sale. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls to him.