If you’re considering purchasing property, you may be wondering, “Should I hire a real estate lawyer?” or “When is it necessary to hire a real estate lawyer?”

Before you consider hiring or choosing a real estate lawyer, it’s important to know that every state and sometimes regions within states have differing requirements for real estate attorneys. Some states leave that as an option open to the buyer and seller while others mandate it as a necessity. Your local real estate agent should be able to advise you on what the protocol is in the area in which you are buying.

Before hiring a real estate lawyer, ask yourself the following questions:

Buyers
Are you an out of town buyer?
Are you buying a property that is a short sale or bank owned?
Are you buying a property that is part of an estate sale?
Are you buying a commercial property?
Are you buying a property that could potentially have some structural issues?
Are you buying a property in a problematic area such as a flood zone or areas with adverse conditions (tornado prone, radon, toxicity levels, etc.)?

Sellers
Are you selling a property that is in some state of distress?
Are you the heir or executor of a property whose owner is now deceased?
Are you selling a house with a non-cooperative partner?
Do you have that gut feeling that something could go wrong based on knowledge you have about the property?
Do you have judgments or liens in your background?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, hiring an attorney to guide you through the process would be very beneficial. However, if none of the above questions apply to you, and you have discussed your situation with your realtor, then you are probably fine to use your realtor’s knowledge and expertise to guide you through to closing.

Many states require continuing education courses and/or certifications on subjects such as ethics, buyer’s agency, distressed property sales, and much more. All of these measures are in place to protect all parties, buyers, sellers, and agents.

Note: Real estate law is a specialty with many nuances not covered under general contract law, so choose your lawyer wisely. Remember that a lawyer could live in an area outside of where the contracts are being written and not know what is considered reasonable and customary for that particular area.

It’s a smart choice to hire a real estate attorney when needed. It’s a real estate attorney’s mission to negotiate in a peaceful manner that is fair and amenable to all parties involved. A real estate attorney usually takes over after the selling price, and the realtors in the contract have established terms and all parties have signed. The attorney will then review the contract itself, negotiate repairs based on the home inspection report, and collaborate with the title company. The attorney will also accompany you at settlement along with your realtor and possibly your lending agent. All of these individuals have important duties to carry out so that you’re protected and happy with your real estate affairs and decisions.