Q: On a recent radio appearance, you made a statement regarding the role of real estate attorneys in closing real estate transactions in Georgia that I believe is misleading.

In the context of discussing lease-purchase transactions, you said something along the lines of: “I know the agents out there will be mad at me, but for deals like this (lease-purchases) you should use a real estate attorney to handle the matter, even though in Georgia you normally would not need a real estate attorney to be involved in a transaction.”

I am paraphrasing here, and I may have misunderstood your meaning, but in Georgia it is against the law for a non-attorney to close real estate transactions, and therefore an attorney will need to be involved at the very least in closing any real estate deal.

You may have been referring to individual representation by an attorney in a real estate purchase/sale transaction (which is not required), in which case your statement would be correct. But I wanted to clarify the point with regard to the need for attorneys to close any transaction where a conveyance of real estate takes place.

A: In Georgia, and other “escrow” states like California and Arizona, real estate attorneys do not generally personally represent buyers and sellers in a closing, and that’s all that matters from my point of view. If you tell buyers and sellers an attorney will be present (to close the deal) they may assume that the lender’s attorney is “their” attorney and represents them. That is not the case.

To avoid crossing that line, I simply tell it like it is — they are not represented by an attorney at closing. And that, I believe, is unfortunate.

As a real estate and financial writer, married to a real estate attorney (full disclosure is always best), I have to say I think people would be a lot better off using a qualified, experienced real estate attorney to help them with the single largest transaction of their life.

While you may not need the attorney in most cases, you never know when a deal is going to go bad, or when an agent really isn’t helping you (but is helping himself), or when a title issue from 25 years ago will crop up.

No one needs an attorney for the perfect house deal. It’s just that so few of them are problem-free.

Published: Aug 13, 2004