You have a lot of options when choosing a representative for your real estate transaction. Florida law doesn't require an attorney to be present when buying or selling a home, and you may legally perform the transaction without involving a real estate agent.
If you want to have someone represent your interests, you don’t even have to choose between hiring a real estate agent or hiring an attorney—you can have both on your side.
However, there are key differences between real estate lawyers and agents, and these can have a huge impact on the condition and value of your purchase.
Differences Between Real Estate Lawyers and Real Estate Agents
Good real estate agents have knowledge of Florida real estate laws and customs and can guide you through simple real estate transactions. It's their responsibility to:
- Know about neighborhoods and surrounding areas
- Perform market analysis of home values
- Submit and negotiate offers between buyers and sellers
- Look for potential defects in the property
- Negotiate a price for repairs or upgrades
- Draw up closing contracts for the final transaction
However, buyers’ and sellers’ agents aren't lawyers, and cannot provide any legal advice during a real estate transaction.
A real estate attorney can perform all of the duties of a real estate agent, but he or she can also:
- Answer your questions. Every real estate transaction involves an overwhelming amount of complex legal documents that must be read and understood before signing. We can explain the legal terms and technical language used in the purchase contract, mortgage, and any other transaction documents, allowing you to sign with peace of mind. In addition, we review all documents and correct any ambiguous language before you sign them, reducing the chances of a problem after the transaction is complete.
- Offer advice. A real estate attorney may have been hired for your purchase, but he or she can advise you on just about any legal issue. For example, there's more than one way to hold title to residential real estate in Florida. An attorney can tell you whether you would benefit more by holding title as sole ownership or joint tenancy, including how each affects taxes and inheritance after the life of the homeowner.
- Explain your options. Each decision you make throughout the buying or selling process has the potential for you to gain or lose a significant amount of money. If you have offers from a variety of lenders but aren’t sure which to accept, your attorney can compare the offers to find out which one best suits your needs. If you decide against the purchase completely, an attorney can examine the terms under which your deposit is forfeited and get your money back from the seller.
- Protect you at closing. Buyers and sellers may get all the way to closing without an attorney, then enlist the help of a lawyer to review closing paperwork before they sign. The fees that a real estate lawyer charges for a document review are often a fraction of the cost of the potential problems they identify and solve before the transaction is complete.
- Take over from an estate agent. Many real estate transactions that begin with the help of an agent end with a lawyer being called in when legal issues arise. An agent could lose his real estate license by answering a legal question for a buyer or seller—even if he knows the right answer. Given these limitations, a real estate attorney is in a better position to protect all of your interests throughout the buying process.
Ready to Help You
If you experience or anticipate any legal problems with your home purchase, only a qualified real estate lawyer can give you the answers you need.
Our attorneys provide as much or as little legal assistance as clients' need, allowing them to complete their sale or purchase with confidence. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page to set up a consultation with one of our real estate attorneys.