Real estate sales are not simple transactions. A lot of legal knowledge is necessary to complete real estate transactions, so it’s not only helpful to have a real estate attorney involved in the process, in the state of North Carolina, it’s required.
Why you need a real estate attorney in North Carolina
North Carolina law requires that all real estate closings in the state be handled by a licensed real estate attorney rather than a title company. A lot of legal processes – like title searches, document preparation, and contract negotiation – must take place as part of a real estate closing, so it is the opinion of the State that these practices fall under the umbrella of “practicing law,” and as such, only a licensed attorney has the ability and expertise to carry out these processes.
Beyond the legal requirement for a real estate attorney, having a licensed professional whose knowledge and expertise is in real estate law by your side to guide you through one of the largest purchases in your life is an invaluable asset. For example, should you have any questions or concerns during the process, your real estate agent is not licensed to give you legal advice – and would be breaking the law if they were to do so – but your real estate attorney is.
A real estate attorney’s responsibilities
The responsibilities of the real estate attorney will vary based on the type of transaction that is occurring and whether financing is necessary for the purchase.
A real estate attorney’s responsibilities typically include:
- Title search: The attorney will conduct a title search to make sure there are no liens (a legal claim to a piece of property used as collateral for a debt) on the property, unpaid taxes on the property, judgments against the property or other encumbrances that would prevent the seller from being able to legally transfer ownership of property to the seller.
- Preparing and reviewing legal documents: Your real estate attorney can help to negotiate the terms of the sale and then draft the sales contract, deed, and documents for the mortgage loan.
- Opinion of title: Once the attorney is sure the title to the property is free and clear, they will write an opinion of title stating that the buyer can legally purchase the property, a report stating the validity of the property’s title and state of ownership of the property. They then send the opinion of title to the title company who prepares a “binder” to issue to the lender for review.
- Aiding in closing: At closing, the buyer and seller, as well as their real estate agents, meet with the real estate attorney so that the attorney can walk them through all the documents associated with the sale as they are signed. Once all closing documents are signed by both parties, the real estate attorney will send copies of the documents to the mortgage lender, record the deed of sale with the Register of Deeds, and disburse the funds from the sale.
- Mediating contract disputes: If there are disagreements between the buyer and seller in regards to the contract of the sale, the attorney will review the contract and help to mediate the dispute by providing unbiased legal advice to both parties.
Ultimately, your real estate attorney will protect you from any possible legal issues that could occur during the course of your real estate transaction and help the process go as smoothly as possible.
When to contact a real estate attorney
Because North Carolina law requires a real estate attorney for closing purposes, many wait until they’re under contract for a property to contact one. However, contacting a real estate attorney at the beginning of your real estate purchase journey and having them by your side for the entire process has many advantages.
When you contact a real estate attorney at the beginning of the real estate purchase process, they can check any potential properties that you are interested in for liens or other issues that could complicate your taking possession of the property, or easements (a legal right that allows a person to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose) or other restrictions that run with the land and could impact your use of the property. This can keep you from wasting time looking at, and potentially falling in love with, properties that you might not actually be able to take possession of or that could create legal problems for you in the future.
Your real estate agent might have an attorney that they like to partner with that they can put you in touch with, but you are also free to find one on your own. Whichever you feel more comfortable with.
Partner with the Starling Law Firm
Your real estate attorney will undoubtedly be one the most important people involved in your real estate transaction. They ensure that you don’t get taken advantage of in the transaction and that you receive your property clear of any encumbrances, so you’ll want a knowledgeable and experienced attorney at your side every step of the way.
The real estate team at Starling Law Firm has experience working with both individual and commercial clients on a variety of real estate transactions, and can help make the process go smoothly for you. Contact us to schedule a consultation and get one step closer to having the keys to your new property in your hands.