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Why You Need a Lawyer When You Buy or Sell a House

Buying a home is a significant legal and financial matter, especially if it is your first time. It involves real property law and often raises special legal issues compared to other transaction types. A real estate lawyer has the education and expertise to help you throughout the homebuying process. Depending on the state, the law may require that an attorney be involved at closing.

What Does a Real Estate Attorney Do?

Real estate attorneys are legal professionals focused on real estate law. Before working with an attorney, check with your state's bar association to confirm their license. These attorneys provide legal advice on many real estate matters, including buying a home.

They can review or draft your real estate contract and represent you in a closing. They are often well-connected in the local real estate housing community and can help you find:

  • Title companies
  • Home inspection companies
  • Mortgage lenders
  • Escrow agents


Real estate attorneys are often compensated by an hourly rate or with a flat fee. Given the importance of a real estate lawyer to the homebuying process, buyers and homeowners should include attorney fees in the closing costs.

Buying a Home

Buying a home starts well before the parties enter a home sales contract. The buyer and the seller each have a real estate agent representing their interests. A buyer's agent represents the buyer and helps them find a home. The seller's agent represents the seller and helps them find a buyer for the home. The seller's agent can help the seller set a sales price and list the home for sale.

Making an Offer

Once the buyer finds a home, they will make an offer on the house. If the seller accepts the offer, the parties enter into a formal written contract, including determining any down payment, for the sale of the new home. This is the purchase agreement. The homebuying process then follows these steps:

  1. The parties open escrow and contemplate a closing date for the transaction.
  2. The buyer obtains a commitment for financing from a bank (unless the buyer is making a straight cash purchase).
  3. A title company conducts a title search to ensure there is no cloud on the title.
  4. Finally, the property transfers from the seller to the buyer, and the seller receives the purchase price bargained for in the contract.

Purchase Agreements

The purchase contract is the most important legal document in the transaction. Although standard forms are helpful, a lawyer can explain them and revise them to reflect the homebuyer's and the seller's desires.

Clearing Title

The next step is to confirm ownership of the house. A title company will complete the title search and produce a title report. An attorney can review the title report and give an opinion on the title. They can explain any legal restrictions that may undermine your ability to sell the home, including easements, liens, and zoning ordinances.

Many homebuyers purchase title insurance to protect them against a faulty title report.

The Closing Process

The closing is an essential aspect of the home purchase transaction. At the closing, the title passes from the seller to the buyer, who pays the purchase price balance. Through a mortgage loan, monies pass from the lender to the seller. An attorney can help the buyer or seller understand the closing documents, including closing costs.

At the appropriate time, the escrow agent will initiate the transfer of monies. The buyer will have a new home when the closing concludes, and the seller gets the purchase price.

Get Help

Real estate transactions are complex and often the biggest purchase of your life. Real estate attorneys offer peace of mind throughout the process. Speak with an experienced local real estate attorney today.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help guide you through the home buying process.

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