Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest transactions or investments we make in our life. Considering how important this step is in everyone’s life, most of us go through the whole process with someone by our side to guide us through the whole thing. Most people tend to either hire a real estate attorney or a title agent. However, what many don’t know is – what is the difference between the two? Are they one and the same or do they differ greatly? Today, we set out to answer that question for you, so, without further ado, let’s get started
To identify the differences between the two, first, we need to know what it is that they do.
What Are Real Estate Attorneys?
In a nutshell, real estate attorneys are lawyers that specialize in property sales and purchases and whatever follows that process. In general, real estate law covers all acquisitions or sales of real properties and all legal issues related to those properties or anything on that property.
In some cases, state law requires you to have a legal representation when closing a purchase, so have to hire an attorney. Even in cases when you don’t need one, you might want one just to be there and represent your interests.
Real estate attorneys really come in handy when it comes to reviewing or processing all the necessary paperwork. Also, they can go through all the paperwork and review it for any potential issues and advise you on the matter.
In most cases, real estate lawyers charge by the hour, but there could be instances in which you would pay a flat fee. In both cases, you would know upfront. Either way, attorney fees aren’t cheap, but they could potentially save you a lot of money in case something unexpected comes up.
What Are Title Agents?
Aside from real estate attorneys, we often hear about title agents and title agencies when it comes to purchasing a home or any other property. What title agents do here is simply determining whether a property you’re looking to buy/sell is eligible and legally available for sale.
What does that mean? If you’re looking to buy and someone else is looking to sell – what else is there? Well, a few things actually. First of all, title agents will work to make sure a property is legally owned by a seller and that the ownership of the property can be successfully transferred to another person while also making sure there isn’t anyone else that has a legal claim to the property.
Also, title agents will deal with the necessary paperwork reviews, as well as find out about any ongoing or existing mortgages, liens, unpaid taxes and so on. They’ll either make sure those debts are settled or at least that the buyer is fully aware of them and what do they mean.
Finally, a title agency will deal with all the finalizing legal paperwork. As well as the real estate attorneys, they will be present at the closing, providing advice and help.
The Differences Between The Two
Now, simply by looking at their job description, it’s would be easy to assume that these two pretty much do the exact same thing. They both deal with the paperwork and they make sure the transaction goes down smoothly and that everyone leaves the closing a happy man. However, there are a few key differences.
A Title Agent Does Not Work ‘For You’ – An Attorney Does
First of all, a ‘key’ difference between the two lies in the fact that the attorney will work for anyone that hires them, while a title agent works for a title company and a title company works for the title insurer. However, according to SunnySideTitle – in no way does that mean that the title agent won’t represent your interests. On the contrary, even though they don’t technically work for you – title agents will make sure that everyone works in everybody’s best interests and will make sure that everything goes according to the plan. While it is true that an attorney works directly for you, in the end, the results you’re getting as a client are pretty much the same.
Attorneys Can Offer Legal Advice – Title Agents Can’t
In cases when there are some problems with the property, a buyer or seller can’t turn to a title agent for legal advice on how to deal with the problem. The fact of the matter is, title agents aren’t legal representative and they aren’t allowed, or competent, to give out any legal advice whatsoever. Now, most commonly, one of the problems that tend to arise with real estate transactions is how to take a title to the property, which holds some legal ramifications. In this case, a title agent can’t be of help to you, but a lawyer does. In any situation where a problem may arise, any problem with legal aspect to it, you’re better off with a real estate attorney, as they can provide you with legal advice. Also, when discussing contracts, a title agent can’t answer any of your legal questions, but an attorney can.
Title Agents Can’t Draw Up Corrective Legal Documents – Attorneys Can
In some cases, if there’s an issue present, that may require some additional legal documents, either created or obtained. Now, title agents as we’ve said can’t offer legal advice, which also means, they can’t draw up legally binding documents. On the other hand, as we’ve said, title agents work for title companies and a title company can hire a real estate attorney at their own expense if a problem arises or some documents end up being needed.
Title Agencies Can Be More Affordable
The expenses of closing a real estate sale are pretty much standard and set by a state you live in. Accordingly, title agency fees and attorney fees are also very much standard, but attorneys can be slightly more expensive. Granted, real estate lawyers can serve double duty, title agents can’t. However, it is not that common that you need a legal representative in real estate transactions. In most cases, a title agent can deal with all the matters of the transaction. In those cases, hiring an attorney would be a waste of money and a title agent would prove out to be more than enough, not to mention more affordable.
Hopefully, we have managed to clear up the dilemma of whether there’s an actual difference between these two. As you can see, there are some differences and depending on the situation you’re in – they could make an actual difference. However, in most cases, a title agent should be more than enough.