I get this question a lot — “Should I hire a lawyer when buying a house in Texas?”
The answer, as is often the case with many things in life, is “It depends.”
Although, I will add that, even in the most banal of real estate transactions, having an attorney on your side who can advise you on applicable law certainly isn’t a bad thing — there’s something to be said for the peace of mind that comes along with the feeling that you “Did it the right way.”
In Texas, a lawyer is not required for most residential real estate transactions — you certainly can work with a licensed real estate agent or broker, and, assuming the transaction goes smoothly and there are no hiccups, you might be just fine.
In fact, in the State of Texas (and many other States), much of the legal documentation surrounding the home-buying process, including various contracts, forms, and other legal documents, is fairly well standardized, such that real estate agents and brokers can facilitate transactions to their completion without the involvement of a lawyer.
To this end, the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) has done its utmost to ensure that real estate brokers and sales agents are qualified (and licensed) to manage a home-buying transaction competently.
Still, this does not mean that agents or Brokers can render legal advice, and in fact they are prohibited from doing so. Therefore, without a lawyer you might miss critical legal details that can leave you, as buyer or seller, with a real problem.
For instance, if a seller does not provide proper disclosure to a buyer, a process which itself can be extraordinarily detailed and can leave much room for error, not only can this sour a deal, but it might even set up the seller to be on the wrong end of a Deceptive Trade Practices, fraud, or breach of contract claim.
Agents and brokers are not licensed to practice law. If anything comes up during the home-buying process that falls outside the scope of the standardized documentation, in most cases, they cannot legally make changes to these required forms or contracts as this would be tantamount to practicing law — instead, an attorney would likely need to be involved.
The home-buying process can go awry in a number of ways, and no two transactions are the same. While the TREC has done its absolute best to ensure that the standardized forms and contracts it provides can apply in as many different cases as possible, they cannot possibly cover every eventuality.
And, as your real estate broker or agent cannot make substantial changes to these documents, hiring a lawyer when buying a house can help ensure that any unique issues you come across are addressed properly, keeping you protected.
Remember, just because you are honest, enter the transaction honestly, and always act in good faith, does not mean you’ll receive the same treatment from the party on the opposite end of the transaction.
It’s more common than you might think, especially with the active real estate market in North Texas, for both buyers and sellers to engage in practices that are either outright illegal, or (often worse) practices that skirt the line so finely that you end up getting a raw deal with little legal recourse.
Believe me when I say, it’s better to spend a few hundred dollars up front to have an attorney thoroughly review all contracts and forms than have to pay thousands (or tens of thousands) afterwards to clear up a messy legal dispute that never should have come about in the first place.
Whether you are the buyer or the seller, the truth is, real estate transactions are inherently adversarial — in almost every case imaginable, one party is simply going to get a better deal than the other, even if it’s only by a narrow margin.
And, even if you and the other party both have agents working in your stead, there still may be a wide variety of legal minutiae that can either be turned to your advantage or to the advantage of the other party.
If the other party hires an attorney, you can bet that their attorney is going to do their utmost to represent their client well and assist their client in getting the best deal possible — it’s only reasonable to want to have someone on your side to represent your interests.
The home-buying process doesn’t have to be a fight or a search for ways to “take advantage” of the other party — rather, hiring an attorney on both sides ensures that the language of the various forms and contracts protects both parties as much as possible, that the other side isn’t able to “take advantage” of you, and that all unique issues that arise in the process and that concern the unique piece of real property in question are handled in a way agreeable to both parties, rather than leaving one party (or both!) with a sour taste in their mouth after the transaction.
Whether you need someone to help you through the home-buying process or you have a serious dispute on your hands, HBWV has a team of skilled real estate lawyers to meet all your needs. Both Richard Hayes and Don White are Board Certified in Commercial and Residential Real Estate Law and are available to assist you through any transaction.
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