Buying or selling a home can be expensive. In addition to a realtor’s commission, you will likely be responsible for a range of other fees that can add up pretty quickly. In this situation, you may wonder if there is a way to cut costs – such as by not hiring a lawyer to handle the transaction.
In Florida, you are not required to use a lawyer when buying or selling a home. That being said, real estate transactions are legal matters and are full of potential pitfalls. When you are already investing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into the transaction, it makes sense to protect your interests with the expert guidance of an experienced St. Petersburg real estate attorney.
At the Lopez Law Group, we represent buyers and sellers in all phases of real estate transactions, from negotiating and drafting contracts to performing title searches to handling the closing and recording the deed. We offer thoughtful legal counsel to our clients in both residential and commercial real estate deals of all sizes. Reach out to our law firm today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.
Are You Required to Have a Lawyer to Buy or Sell a Home in Florida?
Under Florida law, you are not required to have a real estate attorney for residential real estate transactions. You can legally buy a house, apartment, townhouse, or condo in the state of Florida without ever consulting a lawyer for legal advice.
In other words, you can find a house, make or accept an offer, sign a contract, deal with a bank for financing, and transfer title to a piece of property without legal counsel. You will still need to hire other professionals – such as a title search company, a home inspector, and/or a realtor – to handle different issues that may arise. For example, if you are buying a house, your bank probably won’t issue a mortgage without a title search and title insurance.
Although it is entirely possible to conduct an entire real estate transaction without a Florida real estate attorney, it is probably not advisable in almost every case. For most people, buying a house is the biggest expenditure that they will ever make. It is also a complicated legal transaction. For these reasons, working with a lawyer is probably in your best interests when you are buying or selling a house.
Why You Should Have a Lawyer to Buy or Sell a Home
To understand why you should work with a Florida real estate lawyer when you are purchasing or selling a house, it is important to understand the various aspects of a real estate transaction. While the stages may vary slightly depending on your unique situation (such as selling a house for sale by owner instead of with a real estate agent), the basic steps are as follows:
- A house is listed for sale (typically pursuant to a contract with a real estate brokerage)
- The house is shown to prospective buyers.
- An interested buyer (or buyers) makes an offer.
- The buyer and seller negotiate a deal.
- The parties sign a contract, which may include contingencies (such as the buyer securing financing, the house being inspected and appraised, and the buyer selling their house).
- Due diligence is performed, including a title search is performed to ensure that the title is “clear.”
- The buyer secures a mortgage and insurance
- Documents are prepared for closing
- The closing occurs, where the title is transferred from the seller to the buyer and the buyer pays the seller.
- Any follow-up activities, such as recording the deed, occurs.
Again, you are not required to hire a lawyer to handle any of these steps on your behalf – but it is generally considered a good idea to do so.
Real estate transactions are fundamentally legal in nature. When you buy or sell a house, you are doing so pursuant to a contract – a legal document. Breaching or violating the contract in any way can have serious repercussions. Having a lawyer to help you understand your rights and obligations under the contract can be incredibly useful. Your attorney can also help to draft a contract that protects your interests.
There are many other aspects of a real estate transaction that involve the law, such as the title search. Florida law doesn’t require you to perform a title search to ensure that the seller can pass the title to you without any encumbrances or clouds (such as a lien). However, if you need a mortgage, then you almost certainly won’t be able to get one without a title search and title insurance.
A Florida title attorney can perform the title search for you, and issue a document known as an abstract of title. This document will be necessary to secure title insurance as well as financing. In addition, your lawyer can address any issues that may arise during the course of a title search, such as by filing a quiet title action if there is some dispute as to the ownership of the property.
An attorney can also prepare the property deed for you. A deed is a legal document that has incredible legal significance. Different types of deeds are used to convey property in different ways, which is why it is important to consult with a lawyer to ensure that your property rights are protected.
Finally, a lawyer can represent you during the closing. This includes all of the steps leading up to the closing – such as obtaining financing, performing a title search, and clearing the title – as well as the actual closing, where the necessary documents will be signed. Once the closing is complete, your Florida real estate closing attorney will then record the deed at the local county courthouse.
The bottom line: while you aren’t required to hire a lawyer to buy or sell a house in Florida, it is generally a smart decision. Buying or selling a house is a big deal, and can involve hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. The best way to protect yourself and reduce the likelihood of any problems arising is by working with an experienced St. Petersburg real estate lawyer.
How Lopez Law Group Can Help
Whether you’re listing your house for sale or looking to purchase a home, real estate deals can be stressful. Having a seasoned attorney by your side can help to minimize your anxiety and make the process as smooth as possible. From the initial contract to the recording of the deed, your attorney will represent your best interests.
Based in St. Petersburg, the Lopez Law Group represents buyers and sellers in transactions throughout West-Central Florida. We have significant experience in all types of real estate deals, including commercial and residential properties. To learn more or to schedule a consultation with a Florida real estate lawyer, give us a call at 727-933-0015 or fill out our online contact form.
Are There Situations Where I Should Absolutely Hire a Real Estate Lawyer?
It’s a good idea to have an attorney for any real estate transaction. However, if your matter is particularly complex, it is even more important to be represented by counsel. This could include things such as buying a house in Florida while living in another state, buying a house out of foreclosure, selling a house with structural or other issues, or selling a house that has liens on it.
In these and other situations, a St. Petersburg real estate attorney can help to ensure that your legal interests are protected and that the transaction is completed properly. Reach out to the Lopez Law Group to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.
Can’t My Realtor Help Me with Buying or Selling a House?
While a licensed realtor can help you with many aspects of a real estate transaction, they don’t provide the same services as a lawyer. In fact, they are prohibited from offering you legal advice, including explaining a contract to you. By comparison, an attorney can advocate for and protect your best interests, provide legal advice, draft and review contracts, perform a title search, draft a deed, and litigate any issues that may arise.
In addition, unlike real estate agents, real estate attorneys do not work on commission – so their goal is simply to protect your interests, not to make sure that the deal goes through so they get paid. In St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas, call the Lopez Law Group to talk to an experienced Florida real estate lawyer.