When Do I Need To Hire An Attorney? 5 Reasons To Hire an Attorney.
On what instances do I need to hire an attorney? If you are unsure about when you should hire a professional in Law, stay here with me.
Speaking by my experience, some real estate transactions are more complex than others. The following special circumstances could trigger an outpouring of issues that put your home sale at risk. In these 5 cases, the professional expertise of a real estate attorney is paramount to keeping the deal on track.
1. You’re in financial distress.
Are you facing foreclosure? “If you get a foreclosure notice, the first thing that you should do is contact an attorney,” “There are ways to save the foreclosure and get an injunction, but it takes times and the more time that you have, the better.”
According to information from the Mortgage Bankers Association in 2017, 1 out of every 200 homes will be foreclosed upon.
If you fear your home may be foreclosed upon or if you have already received a foreclosure notice, contact a real estate attorney. You may be able to sell your home as a short sale or negotiate the terms of your mortgage with the help of a legal professional.
Are you considering a short sale? A short sale is when you sell your house for less than the amount you owe on the mortgage. A short sale must be approved by the lender after you show that you’re financially incapable of paying the mortgage due to hardship, and an attorney can help with that.
“If you’re not current on the mortgage, if you’re underwater, or if you owe more on your house than what it’s worth, then I actually get them pre-approved with an attorney that specializes in short sales,” “Once they get pre-approved, the attorney can help you avoid the foreclosure.”
If you think you may qualify for a short sale, find a real estate agent and an attorney that specialize in short sales to help you through the process.
Are there liens and judgments on your title? A lien is a notice attached to your property’s title that claims you owe money to a creditor. Voluntary liens (such as mortgages) are common and easy to settle in escrow because you signed a contract to put it in place.
Involuntary liens, on the other hand, are the bad kind! Creditors can get permission to place involuntary liens against your property for any debt you owe to them. The county can also place a lien for outstanding debts like property taxes. Other types of involuntary liens include those for unpaid construction jobs, judgments (lawsuits), or child support.
Since these liens are attached to the property title, the sale will not be able to close until you pay them off. An attorney will help you clear the title of liens and judgments and negotiate with creditors.
2. You’re selling on behalf of the deceased owner.
If you are left responsible for a property after the death of the owner, and the owner didn’t set up a living trust, you will need to go through probate to sell the home. Probate is a legal process that appoints a representative to administer the estate and distribute assets to intended beneficiaries.
An experienced probate attorney is a necessary player in this process. Once you have inherited the rights to the property, your attorney can help you manage any debt, taxes, or complications with the property.
“In terms of a trustee selling something out of a trust, there could be specific language in the trust requiring certain terms,”.
“You’re going to want an attorney to review that to make sure that you’re complying with all the terms of the trust, and that you’re not breaching your fiduciary duty by selling the property.”
A real estate attorney will help navigate the selling process to make sure you are within the legal rights. They will also defend and protect you if you are one of multiple trustees, so you receive the amount you are entitled to. And if you aren’t familiar with the house and its condition, a real estate attorney can work with your real estate agent to negotiate any major issues that come up, like structural problems or water damage.
3. You’re going through a divorce or separation.
If you co-own a house with someone and you want out, you’ll need an attorney—especially if the other name on the house doesn’t want to sell. A real estate attorney will represent you and your rights when you’re up against an uncooperative co-owner in tough negotiations.
There a lot of different factors to consider when you sell a house in a divorce, and real estate attorney will help work out the details. Some things that can legally affect your right to the house are:
Your state’s laws on dividing property
If you were married when you purchased the home
Any prenuptial agreements
The name on the deed and mortgage
The terms of your divorce agreement
If you both have equal rights to the property, you and your partner will have to decide how you want to divide the house. Here are some options when it comes to handling your house during a split:
Buy out your partner for full ownership, or vice versa.
Decide who will stay in the house until you are ready to sell.
Work together to rent out the house and be co-landlords.
Sell the house and split the proceeds.
It’s hard to come to a fair decision, but an attorney will make sure you get everything you deserve, whether you decide to sell and split the proceeds, or one person is able to keep the house.
4. You have tenants renting the property.
If there’s a tenant in the property that you are selling, it can get tricky to manage. They have legal rights that you need to abide by before selling the property.
A real estate attorney can help you determine the best course of action depending on a few important things:
The lease agreement you have with the tenant. Your real estate attorney will review the duration of the lease and any termination clause to determine if and when you can ask the tenant to move out.
State laws on required notice to vacate. Most states require either 30 or 60 days notice but ask your real estate attorney to confirm the law based on your state.
When you decide to sell your house with a tenant living in it, you have a couple of options:
Wait for the tenant’s lease to expire or ask them to vacate.
Sell with the tenant in the home and transition their rental agreement to the new owners.
The easiest option is to wait until the tenant is out of the property to sell it, otherwise, you’ll have to rely on their cooperation throughout the selling process.
Your real estate attorney will help you settle outstanding balances with them to make sure you receive accurate payments and avoid possible legal action from their end. If all parties agree that the tenant will stay on the property with the new homeowners, your real estate attorney will help you transition the agreement.
5. You have reason to believe your home sale could get complicated.
If you have a gut feeling that there may be unexpected issues with your home sale, such as damage or defects that have gone unnoticed or possible issues with the ownership and title, consult with a real estate attorney.
It’s better to have a real estate attorney make sure you’re protected throughout the whole process than to hire one later for damage control.
“In terms of closings for a general person selling, it’s always good to have someone there to make sure all of the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted,”.
How To Find a Qualified Real Estate Attorney You Can Trust
Most real estate agents have a network of professionals that they’ve teamed up with for years. So, start your search for a top real estate attorney by asking your real estate agent for referrals.
“The attorney that I recommend has helped a lot of people so he just has a very strong track record,”. “What makes him good is the experience and the work that we’ve done with him.”
We have many real estate attorneys that we work with and we recommend based on their experience and they do their stuff.
The attorney you hire should be experienced and well-versed in situations like yours. The most important thing, is that the attorney you hire knows real estate inside and out and practices in your area.
“You might as well not have any representation than to have someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing,” “That’s like having a dentist perform your open heart surgery.”
If you want to conduct an online search for a real estate attorney, here are some of the best places to start.
Your state bar association: Each state has a bar association website that offers a lawyer referral service. It allows you to search for licensed attorneys by ZIP code, specialty, language, and more. Find certified, active lawyers who are experienced in the area you need.
Avvo: provides information and reviews for 97% of practicing lawyers in the United States. Their extensive research and resources will help you through every possible legal situation and provide vetted lawyer recommendations for your needs.
FindLaw is a search engine to find lawyers based on your location. It provides free resources about the law to help you navigate and understand your specific legal situation. Get all your legal questions answered in one place.
After you’ve identified several candidates, vet each professional you’re considering by asking them some simple questions:
How long have you been practicing?
How many real estate clients have you helped?
What is your plan of action to protect me through my home sale?
Are you also a title agent or do you have one on your team?
What are the local real estate laws that I should know about?
Will anyone else be working on my transaction?
What are your fees?
The Cost of a Real Estate Attorney
You should be prepared to spend up to $5,000 on a real estate attorney. Each attorney has different hourly fees, ranging anywhere from $150 to $300 an hour, so it depends on the situation. But usually for regular transactions are way less expensive. Considering what’s at stake (hundreds of thousands of dollars), it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and a sense of security.
“Other than the introduction if you don’t use us up until closing, it doesn’t cost you anything.”
You’ll simply have the ability to say that you are represented by an attorney, and can call on them when you need them. “Now some may require a retainer fee, but in small transactions, that’s probably not going to be necessary,”.
Should You Hire a Real Estate Attorney?
Unless your area requires that real estate attorneys be involved in real estate transactions, whether you hire an attorney to oversee your home sale is ultimately up to you.
If you’re anticipating a simple, straightforward deal, a top real estate agent may be all you need. Alternatively, a transaction fraught with obstacles may require the expertise of a legal professional to put out fires and keep the sale from crumbling.
Every seller’s situation is different, so talk to your real estate agent about your individual needs to make sure you’re covered from all angles.