Selling a home is one of the most costly and stressful experiences that American homeowners will probably have to undertake at least once in their lifetime. Between paying for your realtor and renovations, you may be wondering do I need a lawyer to sell a house?
It’s just a fact, selling a home comes with a lot of documents and contracts. One error can become costly with massive future implications. But to answer the question directly, “Do I need a real estate attorney to sell my house?” it depends on which state you reside in.
If you have a home in one of the following 21 states you will need an attorney to be a part of the closing of the sale process:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
But as a generalization, if someone in a transaction has brought along legal representation, we can guarantee you should have a lawyer of your own.
Selling a house is a complex exercise, just having someone who is familiar with local, state, and federal laws will streamline processes.
If you are wondering, “Do I need a lawyer to sell my house privately?” the answer is yes if you reside in the states mentioned. Even if you’ve already decided to sell your house without a realtor, you will need an attorney.
So, now that we’ve answered, “Do I need a lawyer to sell a house?” let’s investigate why you should use an attorney to sell your house.
What a real estate attorney does
As mentioned, selling a house comes with reams of paperwork. And when you’re about to sign documents that could financially ruin you if you miss a hidden clause, hiring a real estate attorney gives you an additional set of trained eyes to comb through contracts and catch errors, as well as protect your interests throughout the entire process.
If you do take on a real estate lawyer before hiring a realtor, you can have them review the commission agreements, which can be tricky. And when you receive an offer on your property, they can also review the offer, flag down any issues, and help you take advantage of tax benefits and considerations.
When you’ve accepted the offer, the real estate attorney will then help create contractual agreements, review the title, mortgage, and transfer documents, as well as writing the deed, and finally breaking down the settlement of funds.
You want a professional to help when unexpected complications occur. While some may point out that an experienced real estate agent could assist with these processes, then again, an attorney is trained to spot legal abnormalities, which a realtor simply isn’t.
What do sellers and buyers do in states that don’t require lawyers?
If you’re still thinking “Do you need a lawyer to sell a house?” let’s just say, we’ve all regretted not getting the correct person for a certain job in the past.
However, finding the appropriate real estate attorney for the job can be a challenge as is tracking down any specialist. The best two methods of nailing down the correct lawyer are:
If you are working with a real estate agent, you can ask them for their referral and who they’ve enjoyed working with. After all, they do work in the same industry. And if you’ve decided to sell your house for cash to 365 Property Buyers, we can also suggest a fantastic attorney.
The second port-of-call would be friends and family, who might have used an attorney for their own home sales. And if you were a fan of the lawyer who was involved in drawing up your contract for the purchase of your home, maybe rehire them again.
We cannot express the value of doing online research on an attorney. With loads of customer review platforms like Yelp and Google, you should be able to gauge the caliber of any lawyer.
But if you need more of a direct line you can start with:
- American Bar Association where you’ll be able to search for local, licensed lawyers by ZIP code, specialty, language, and more
- FindLaw is another specialist search engine that will help you locate local attorneys
- Avvo is a basic lawyer directory with a great indexing system that will connect you directly to a real estate lawyer
Make sure to have a checklist of questions for them to answer. But we all know what your next question is: cost.
How much does a real estate lawyer cost?
This can vary from state-to-state, but as a rule of thumb, it can cost anywhere up to $5 000. If this price has got you asking again, “Do I need a lawyer to sell my house?”, we can confirm that some attorneys charge by the hour.
Hourly rates can again vary from anywhere between $150 to $500 an hour. Just remember, pricing can change depending on the work required. Some lawyers may bill you via a retainer for the entire process.
But, if you’re still thinking, “Should I use an attorney to sell the house?” Let’s do a breakdown of what could potentially go very wrong.
What situations will you need a lawyer?
As we’ve mentioned above, there are just some situations where having a legal professional on your team is necessary. Most of these situations occur when the procedures become unclear. Below are a few examples:
Getting a notice of foreclosure is never going to be a pleasant experience. But if you get in contact with a real estate attorney, you may be able to submit an injunction to stall proceedings. And in this case, time is money.
With this extra time, you can opt for a short sale by negotiating the new terms of your mortgage with the lender.
A short sale is defined as selling your property for less than the amount of your mortgage. This is the last resort step and you’ll need to get buy-in from the lender and prove that you’re financially unable to pay off the mortgage due to hardships. With an attorney at your side, it will only make the process easier.
This is a notice that is attached to your property’s title, claiming you owe money to a creditor. There are various liens, the voluntary liens (or mortgage) are common and are easy to settle in escrow as you’ve signed a contract.
But, an involuntary lien is where the creditors get permission to claim back debts you owe. An example would be the state requesting payment on outstanding taxes. This tactic can be applied for construction jobs and lawsuits against you.
Inherited Property House Sale
If you’ve inherited a property and are looking to sell, it can be incredibly complex if there isn’t a living trust in place and you’re involved in probate.
Probate is a process where the court takes over the inheritance process and ensures that assets are distributed appropriately. You will need access to an experienced probate attorney. And once you do take possession of the property you can ask them for help with managing debts, taxes, and any other complications.
Then, if you do need help with protection from any of the trustees who have been appointed during the probate procedures, so you get what you’re entitled to. And in situations where you’re unfamiliar with the property, you can also have the real estate attorney and agent work together to negotiate how to fix serious issues.
Divorce or separation
Planning to sell a home that is co-owned can be a legal nightmare. A real estate lawyer will help if there is an uncooperative party.
And the factors can change from state-to-state, which can legally affect your right when it comes to selling your house fast are:
- The state’s laws on dividing property
- If you were married when purchasing the house
- Prenuptial agreements
- Name on deed and mortgage
- Financial situation
- And the divorce agreement
Also, if you both have equal claim to the property, you will need to decide how to split the asset.
If you have a tenant on the property you’re trying to sell, you could have some issues. They have a certain amount of rights. A real estate lawyer can determine the best course of action. These depend on:
- Your lease agreement with the tenant, and what the termination clause is, as well as when they are legally required to move
- State laws on required notice to vacate
You can sell the property with the tenant living on the premises, you can just draw up a transition on their rental agreement, transferring it to the new property owner.
As a rule of thumb, it’s always easier to wait for the lease to end.
There is always a possibility that there is a hidden maintenance or repair issue, and having a proper contract covering the fact you’re not liable for repairs is a massive bonus.
As this isn’t the time to have additional financial strains pop up.
365 Property Buyers operates in the states that require that you have a real estate lawyer for the sale of your home. Since we buy houses in Arkansas, we have experience working with the best real estate attorneys in your county.
And with 365 Property Buyers, we’re able to offer you cash for houses, all you need to do is call us at (501) 369-0365. After you answer just a few questions, you’ll have the option to accept a fair cash offer, sign a sales agreement, and close the deal. We know it’s hard to believe, but really, that’s it!
We look forward to helping you sell your house as fast as possible. Call now or fill out our online form to get a cash offer within 10 minutes!