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Real Estate Attorneys Answers

What's the difference between a real estate lawyer and a closing attorney?

A closing attorney is a real estate lawyer who specializes in closing a property transaction. Closing attorneys examine the title to a property and resolve any issues before the close. The closing attorney will review and explain all the documents that you will be signing at the closing and make sure they are accurate.

A real estate attorney is trained to handle a wider swath of real estate-related legal issues.

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When do I need to hire my own real estate attorney?

In some states, you are required to hire a real estate attorney to guide you through your real estate transaction and assist with closing. In other states, real estate attorneys are optional. See who handles the closing in your state.

Whether or not a closing attorney oversees the closing transaction in your state, it is advisable to hire a real estate lawyer for a high-end property purchase (in excess of $3 million).

In states where attorneys are not required, the real estate agent usually guides buyers and sellers through property transactions. The agent also provides standardized documents and contracts that legalize the property transfer when signed. If you live in a state that does not require a real estate attorney, you may still want to hire one. Here are some circumstances that may warrant hiring a real estate attorney.

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What does a closing attorney do?

Here are some of the more common tasks that a closing attorney takes care of:

  • Examining title records (previous sales) looking for errors or issues that could delay the sale
  • Resolving any discovered issues prior to the close
  • Verifying that the seller has the right to sell the property
  • Negotiating and explaining the terms of the contracts and loans
  • Reviewing all the documents to ensure accuracy

Note: Title insurance companies and independent escrow companies also provide these services in a number of states.

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How do I choose a real estate attorney?

If you already have a lawyer, ask for a recommended real estate attorney. Also ask friends and family for their recommendations. Your real estate agent or broker may also be able to provide a referral. Use the ClosingWizard to find and compare real estate legal services in your area.

Make sure you select an attorney that specializes in real estate law.

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How much does a real estate attorney cost?

Fees vary depending on where you live and the complexity of your legal issue. Some attorneys will answer general questions free - it never hurts to ask!

Typically, attorneys have a flat fee schedule for providing closing services. For other real estate legal matters, most attorneys charge by the hour. Hourly fees vary greatly depending on location, firm, experience and expertise, so it pays to understand the fees upfront. Always request an estimate.

Whether or not a closing attorney oversees the closing transaction in your state, it is advisable to hire a real estate lawyer for a high-end property purchase (in excess of $3 million).

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