Selling a piece of real estate is something that intuitively feels like it ought to be simple. However, it's common for people on both the buying and selling sides of a deal to want to hire a real estate closing attorney to protect their interests. You may wonder if it really is that complex. Here is why it's usually a good idea to have a real estate closing lawyer involved.
Titles and Rights
Much of the legal complexity of the closing process arises from the roles played by titles and rights. When you buy or sell real estate, you're not purchasing the land in the strictest sense. You're buying a title, and that title likely comes with certain rights.
Checking the Title
A big thing that every real estate closing attorney wants to see done early in the process is verifying that there aren't issues with the title. It's not uncommon for easements or liens to hang over a title. Depending on the circumstances, you might need to cure the title, a legal process that requires petitioning the court to clear these items off. Likewise, the outside parties that hold easements or liens may have rights they can assert.
There are also more extreme scenarios. For example, title fraud is a crime where someone takes control of a title or fakes the appearance of control by misrepresenting their interests in a property. It's important to confirm that the party selling the property is legally allowed to do so.
You'll want to resolve all of these matters before a sale closes. If they might hang over the title after closing, then you'll likely want to halt the process, renegotiate the sale, and see a price drop that reflects the increased risk. You should also consider purchasing insurance to hedge that risk.
One of the main assurances you should have during closing is that the money won't be transferred until both sides have fulfilled their obligations. Escrow companies are the common go-betweens for these transactions. An escrow company has a duty to handle the transfer competently, and they deal with things like verifying the signing of documents, transmitting money, and turning over keys. If they can't confirm these elements, they'll hold turning over the title and the money.
A good reason to hire a real estate closing lawyer is they'll have experience with how escrow and closing work. They can point you toward trusted companies that will handle the process with integrity and care.