A house purchase is often the first time most people find themselves in need of a lawyer. Your real estate agent will likely recommend several, but it’s up to you to make the final selection. In some states, the title insurance company will handle the closing; in others, it will be an attorney. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect of a real estate attorney and his or her legal team.
Legal secretary. This is the first face you’ll likely see in a law office or the first voice you’ll hear if you contact the office by telephone. Legal secretaries will provide you with the necessary paperwork to start work on a home closing. They’ll schedule appointments and relay information to the paralegal and attorney as needed.
Paralegal. Smaller offices typically have one person act as secretary and paralegal, while larger firms have a paralegal devoted to each attorney. Expect paralegals to draft and edit documents for your review. Paralegals keep you informed of progress, field questions, and pass your concerns along to the attorneys. They will contact your lender, perform the title search, make arrangements for title insurance, and keep track of what documents are still needed. Paralegals will often witness and notarize closing documents.
Attorney. In many cases, after an initial consultation, you may not see the attorney again until closing. Most real estate attorneys manage their work behind the scenes, delegating tasks to the paralegal to ensure all details are addressed and on schedule. In a smaller office, the attorney might also draft documents, pursue information from the lender, and arrange for title insurance. Once the loan is paid off, the seller gives the keys to the attorney, who holds them until your loan is funded and the deed is recorded. Filing of the paperwork is precise, and after signing documents at closing, the lawyer is typically the one to hand you the keys to your new home.
While an attorney is required for real estate closings in many states, some areas of the country use title companies to perform these duties. Check with your real estate agent to see what is customary in your area of the country.