Buying a piece of real estate is typically one of the largest financial transactions you’ll make in your lifetime. In addition to the financial responsibility, there’s also a lot of emotion tied to the experience – for both the buyer and the seller. While the goal is a positive experience for all parties involved, sometimes the transaction is complex or an unexpected dispute creates a wedge, leaving you to wonder at what point you should hire a real estate attorney.
Does Florida require an attorney in real estate transactions?
Unlike many states who require the use of an attorney for a real estate purchase or sale, Florida does not. However, just because it’s not legally required doesn’t mean there aren’t circumstances where it would be a good idea to have a real estate attorney on your team.
An experienced real estate attorney will bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to the table. They can also help a tricky real estate transaction make it to closing. A Florida real estate attorney will protect your best interests, and help to streamline the entire process, from contract negotiations to securing title insurance, communicating with lenders, and overseeing the real estate closing process.
In addition to handling any complicated matters that arise, a real estate attorney will also be there to make sure all contracts are drafted properly and that there are no liens on the property.
Generally speaking, a real estate transaction requires the preparation of many different documents, including sales contracts, deeds, closing statements, and knowing the property’s title history. Granted, not all these documents need to be drafted by a real estate attorney, however, realtors cannot provide legal advice. If your real estate transaction is more complex, hiring a Florida real estate attorney may provide you with an added sense of security.
What do real estate attorneys do?
Typically there are two different types of real estate lawyers – commercial and residential. A commercial real estate attorney works with and represents businesses and other parties who are buying, selling, leasing, and developing commercial properties. Residential real estate attorneys work with buyers and sellers to help prepare and manage the mortgage process, title work, and real estate closing documents associated with purchasing a residential property.
Additionally, real estate attorneys may prepare specific documents, review purchase agreements, write title insurance policies, and handle the transfer of funds. If the purchase is being financed, the attorney will prepare some of the paperwork, such as the federal HUD-1 Form. They may also attend the closing to ensure that the process was complete and legal, and that everything went along in the best interests of their client.
Lastly, a real estate dispute lawyer can represent you in a court of law.
When to hire a real estate attorney
- Purchasing a short sale
- Purchasing a foreclosure or bank-owned property
- Purchasing a commercial property
- Purchasing a property in a different state than which you live
- Purchasing an estate
- Purchasing a property with known issues (structural, termites, mold, etc.)
- Purchasing a property in a flood zone or natural disaster-prone area
- The purchase involves multiple parties
- The purchase is complex
- Selling a property during a divorce or legal separation
- Selling an inherited property
- Selling a property with a lien
- Selling a home with multiple owners
- Selling a home with known issues (structural, termites, mold, etc.)
- Short-selling a home
Foreclosures and bank owned properties – If you’re preparing to go into foreclosure or negotiating for a short sale; or if you want to purchase a bank-owned property, it’s in your best interest to hire a real estate attorney. In most cases, either your lender or title company will need confirmation that the property’s title is clean and a real estate lawyer can help with this.
Commercial real estate transaction – Commercial real estate transactions are typically complicated and involve many factors that aren’t present during residential real estate transactions. Hiring an experienced commercial real estate attorney can help you avoid costly mistakes. You’ll want to look for someone who can advise you on zoning issues, property liens, environmental concerns, easements, structural conditions and concerns, and any rental agreements associated with the property.
Complex real estate arrangements – Transactions including problems with titles, disclosure, mineral or surface rights, and tax concerns can all lead to the need for a real estate lawyer.
Real estate disputes – Disputes among buyers and sellers should always involve a real estate dispute lawyer. The condition of the property, easement issues, and discrepancies in the contracts are just a few things that can pop up. An experienced real estate attorney can review the situation, negotiate on your behalf, or draft amendments to ensure your rights are represented and that the purchase is fair for all parties involved.
Questions to ask when hiring a real estate attorney
Before entering into negotiations, you’ll want to find a real estate attorney who will best represent you. To determine whether the lawyer has the skills and qualifications to meet your needs, here are some questions to consider asking:
- Do you primarily practice real estate law? If not, what percentage of your business is geared towards property law?
- Have you previously handled cases similar to mine?
- How long have you been practicing real estate law in Florida?
- Do you have specialties within real estate law?
- What are your fees, and how is your billing handled?
- Will you be working alone, or will anyone else be working on my case?
- Do I need an attorney for the type of real estate transaction that I’m involved in?
- Can you provide references?
Can a real estate attorney help solve a transaction dispute?
Real estate disputes can turn an exciting process into a miserable one. A breach of contract, disgruntled neighbors, boundary disputes, leasing disagreements, title issues or financing disputes are just a few examples of things that can unexpectedly pop up.
Our team of real estate dispute lawyers understand the property and financial factors that are at risk during property disputes. Our goal is to help resolve the dispute as quickly and efficiently as possible, while keeping your best interests in mind.
How to decide if you need a real estate lawyer
Determining whether you need to hire a real estate lawyer depends on a variety of factors. Because legal representation is not required in the state of Florida, deciding whether to hire a real estate attorney depends on the complexity of your situation. For example, if you’re involved in a simple month-to-month lease or are purchasing a straightforward residential property, you likely won’t need the assistance of a real estate attorney.
It’s important to point out that regardless of your situation, deciding whether to hire a real estate lawyer is up to you, so do your homework. Don’t simply leave the decision up to your real estate agent.
Ultimately, the purchase and/or sale of a property is often one of the biggest transactions you’ll make in your lifetime. Hiring a real estate lawyer to guide you through the process, defend your rights, and assist in negotiations and contracts will provide you with peace of mind.
The experienced real estate litigation team at Syprett Meshad are here to help with any residential or commercial real estate transactions or disputes. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 941-365-7171. We’re serving clients throughout the greater Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, North Port, Venice areas, and throughout the state of Florida.