A real estate lawyer is a specialist that deals with all the norms and rules related to property sales. They prepare contracts, review documents from the buyer and their lender, and transfer paperwork like title insurance and titles.
While hiring an attorney for your home purchase may not seem necessary, many people discover that having one protects them from financial losses.
Buying or Selling a Home
Purchasing real estate is often one of the biggest financial investments people make—many own properties individually or through a trust, corporation, or limited liability company. Real estate lawyers must ensure these transfers occur correctly and are consistent with overall estate planning goals.
A real estate lawyer can help with a purchase by examining the contract, explaining the terms, and facilitating closure. Attorneys can also write title insurance policies to protect buyers from third-party claims that arise after closing. They may also handle zoning issues and historic preservation concerns. They can also advise on investment properties, which involve complex tax considerations that most people need to familiarize themselves with. They can also connect asset dispositions with legal documents, such as wills and trusts.
Real Estate Contracts
Real estate attorneys often help draft and review real estate contracts. They are familiar with local, state and national laws and regulations and can ensure that your agreement accurately reflects your understanding of the transaction.
Real property is typically financed with a mortgage. Your real estate attorney can review and negotiate residential loan documents and explain the legal implications of different terms, such as prepayment penalties.
Many individuals own real property in their names alone, but it is possible to hold real estate in a partnership, corporation or limited liability company. This can offer tax benefits and other estate planning advantages, including the potential to use beneficiary deeds (which are not available in New York). Your real estate lawyer can explain the advantages of these structures and the benefits of transferring your property to them.
Negotiating a Purchase Agreement
While many believe that only the buyer needs a real estate lawyer, both parties can benefit from legal representation. The attorney can check the contract for legal issues and help the buyer or seller resolve problems. They can also assist with land ownership and transfer documentation.
In addition, real estate attorneys can assist with negotiating the terms of a purchase agreement. They can increase a client’s leverage by insisting on a diligence period, arranging expanded conditions precedent, and more.
Finally, real estate lawyers can draft title insurance policies to protect clients against third-party claims on the property that may not have been uncovered during a title search. This is particularly important for investment properties. Real estate attorneys can also help clients develop an estate plan by drafting trusts and powers of attorney.
Land contracts are an alternative to mortgages for financing real estate purchases. These are negotiated between the seller and the buyer, typically allowing buyers who still do not qualify for a mortgage to buy property. The contracts can contain complicated terms, including how the buyer will change the home and when the final balloon payment will be due.
Because of the complex terms and fewer consumer protections, a lawyer must review these documents before a buyer signs them. In addition, if the property being sold is subject to an existing underlying mortgage, the contract mustn’t violate any acceleration clauses in the existing mortgage. This could result in the homeowner losing ownership of the property.
Real Estate Litigation
As the name implies, real estate litigation involves any legal dispute concerning property or land. This may include contractual disputes, such as a lawsuit that claims breach of contract or quantum meruit claims, which seek compensation for services rendered. Real estate litigation also may involve boundary line disputes. These may occur when the practical property line used by people who live on a property differs from the legally registered boundary line.
For developers and investors, disputes may involve the purchase and sale of property, zoning and development, construction contract bidding and cost overruns. Conflicts can also arise once parties take possession of the property, such as with retail or commercial tenants, over eviction procedures and rights of first refusal. Real estate lawyers are experienced in negotiating and litigating these disputes.