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What Do Attorneys Do in a Real Estate Transaction?

Responsibilities of a Real Estate Attorney

  • Reviewing documents – such as purchase agreements, title documents, mortgage docs, transfer documents and typically represents a buyer or a seller. They are certified professionals who oversee the legal aspects of real estate transactions.
  • Advise clients in real estate disputes – such as encroachments, taxes, liens, illegal structures, title issues, even environmental and insurance issues, just to name a few.
  • Create legal documents – such as draft up leases, financial and rental agreements, review building code compliance, zoning and inspection reports. They are more transactional in terms of job function.
  • Due Diligence – The help both commercial and residential clients with the due diligence of real property.

What States Require an Attorney for a Real Estate Closing?

Nearly half of the states need a real estate attorney to assist with closing responsibilities. When you prepare to purchase a property, you should determine if your state needs you to engage an attorney from the outset.

The following states mandate the need of a real estate attorney when purchasing a home:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

If you reside in any of the following states, you will need to contact a real estate attorney. Before proceeding, you should estimate your potential expenditures. Some attorneys charge an hourly rate, often between $150 and $300 per hour. Others charge a fixed fee of between $500 and $1,500 to assist with real estate transactions. Account for this expense in your budget.

However, even if this is not a necessity in your state, it is still beneficial to employ a real estate attorney, as many purchasers consider it a minor price to pay for peace of mind when purchasing a house.

What is the Role of a Real Estate Attorney in Roundtable Closings?

In the East Coast like in NYC they close via roundtable closings. Your real estate attorney acts like escrow closing companies in the West.

A roundtable closing in NYC can consist of both parties (buyer and seller), both closing attorneys, both real estate brokers, the buyer’s lender and seller’s bank, and the management company representative. You can expect up to a dozen people to show up.

Unlike in West Coast closings, it will be most likely just your own party, nary to meet a single person from the seller side.

In short, the real estate attorney generally focuses on the legal aspect of real estate documentation involved in the real estate transaction.

Not to be Confused with an Estate Attorney

An estate attorney is not to be confused with a real estate attorney. They may order and review an appraisal but do not do the actual appraisal unless they have a separate license for this. Estate attorneys will typically contract an outside appraisal company to affix a valuation on your property.

An estate attorney deals mainly with planning, wills, trusts, estates, taxes and probates. They help you plan for the equitable disposal of your estate once all your liabilities are subtracted out.

A home or real property always ends up as part of someone’s estate. Estate attorneys help clients with the distribution of that estate, provides counseling and sets up trusts. They can also advise you of a retirement and investment plan.

This will be the extent of their limited role that he or she will play in your real estate transaction in the future.


Real estate is a vast and varied spider web of various professionals that play specific roles throughout the entire life of the real estate process. Whether it was from the inception of purchasing a home, all the way to finally disposing of it towards the end of one’s life.

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