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How much does a real estate lawyer cost?

How much a real estate lawyer costs will depend on the type of issue you are facing as well as a couple of other key factors.

evident Editorial Team
published
March 22, 2022
House made of money

If you are considering whether to hire a real estate lawyer, then you are probably curious how much a real estate lawyer costs. But, as discussed in our Real Estate Law overview, real estate lawyers handle a wide variety of cases relating to the buying, selling, and renting of real property. 

The two primary ways a real estate lawyer is likely to charge are hourly rates or on a fixed fee basis. Hourly rates for real estate attorneys might range from $150 to over $400 per hour, while Fixed fees might range from $500 to $2,000 for a home closing depending on location, complexity, or other variables. 

But how much a real estate attorney costs will depend in large part on what type of case you are dealing with. The type of case, in turn, will affect both how the real estate attorney will charge you as well as how much time they might spend on your case. 

This article will explain how a real estate lawyer will charge you and what that might mean for your total legal costs. We’ll also cover how much a real estate lawyer costs if you buy a home since that is one of the main times people hire real estate attorneys. 

Key Takeaways

How do real estate attorneys charge for their services?

There are two primary ways a real estate attorney will likely charge for their services: an hourly rate or a fixed fee. 

If a real estate lawyer charges by the hour, you will be billed for the amount of time they spend working on your case. Fixed or flat fee arrangements, by contrast, are when a real estate attorney charges a flat fee regardless of how many hours they work on your case. 

Flat fees are more common for certain types of cases, such as residential home closings, where the attorney can confidently estimate the amount of time and effort involved.  

Pros and Cons of each billing method

There are pros and cons to either billing structure. With hourly rates, the advantage is that you only pay for the time that your real estate lawyer actually spends on your case. But you may not know how much time your real estate lawyer will spend on your case at the outset, which may make it difficult to predict your total legal fees.

Under a flat fee arrangement, meanwhile, the key advantage is knowing exactly what your legal fees will be up-front. But it's possible your real estate lawyer's fees could be higher under a flat fee if your case is less complicated or contentious than expected.

Keep in mind that some real estate lawyers may also require a retainer up-front. (A retainer is essentially a down payment for legal fees and expenses).

There are pros and cons to flat fee and hourly fee billing methods


Hourly rates for real estate lawyers

Hourly fees for real estate attorneys might range from $150 to over $400 per hour, but these numbers will vary greatly depending on the attorney’s experience level and where you (and the attorney) are located. For instance, a typical real estate lawyer in Ohio charges about $251 per hour, while a typical real estate lawyer in New York charges about $340 per hour.

But as discussed above, these rates can also vary substantially depending on the real estate lawyer’s focus. A commercial real estate attorney who works at a larger firm and focuses on complex, multimillion-dollar real estate transactions will probably charge a higher hourly rate. By contrast, a solo attorney who helps clients with landlord-tenant disputes likely charges a lower hourly fee.

Understanding what affects your total legal costs

So how much does a real estate lawyer cost? It depends – on the type of case involved and a few other key factors. 

For instance, the total legal costs of hiring a foreclosure or landlord-tenant lawyer will be very different from the costs of hiring a commercial real estate attorney. But, in either scenario, how complicated and how contentious your matter is will impact how much it will cost to hire a real estate lawyer. 

How complicated your case is:

This is true of many areas of law – the more complicated your case, the more expertise might be required and the more hours an attorney is likely to spend on it. 

Think about it this way – if you are buying a home, there are more real estate attorneys available to help with a simple home closing, and they will have to spend fewer hours on the transaction, than if your home closing involves unusual contractual issues or if you are dealing with a more complicated scenario like a short sale.

How contentious your case is:

If the other side is working collaboratively with you, things go smoother. This is true both in real estate matters and legal issues more generally. But if you're in a contentious legal battle, there will be more for your attorney to do, and the case will probably last longer. More time often means more billable hours, which increases the legal fees. 

How much does a real estate lawyer cost for a residential closing?

When to hire a real estate lawyer

Buying a home is one of the most common events that might lead people to hire a real estate lawyer. State law requires you to hire a real estate attorney when purchasing a home in many places. (These states include: Connecticut; Delaware; Georgia; Massachusetts; North Carolina; South Carolina; and West Virginia). 

Other states require that a real estate attorney certify title, which confirms that a lawyer has reviewed the title and did not identify any issues with the transaction. And even where state law does not require you to hire a real estate lawyer, you may still want–or need–to hire one. 

These situations include:

  • If your lender requires it
  • If you anticipate any complexities to the transaction, like zoning issues or 
  • If you are dealing with a short sale or other more complicated transactions

How much does a real estate lawyer cost for a simple closing?

The cost of a real estate lawyer for a residential closing will depend on the services they are providing and how they charge for their services. 

As discussed above, the two primary ways a real estate lawyer is likely to charge are hourly rates or on a fixed fee basis. 

  • Hourly rates for real estate attorneys might range from $150 to over $400 per hour
  • Fixed fees might range from $500 to $2,000 for a home closing depending on location, complexity, or other variables. 

Remember that who bears the real estate attorney’s costs may depend on your role in the transaction (e.g., buyer or seller) and how your contract is structured.

The final word on real estate lawyer costs

Understanding how much a real estate lawyer costs comes down to three main things:

First, what type of real estate issue you are dealing with. Landlord-tenant disputes are very different from commercial real estate transactions, but both fall under the broad umbrella of real estate law. 

Second, how complicated your matter is. Simple and straightforward cases will be less expensive than trickier transactions. 

Third, how contentious your matter is. As you might expect, protracted legal battles are more expensive than amicable transactions. 

It is also helpful to understand how a real estate attorney will charge you for their services. Most real estate lawyers will either charge an hourly rate or a fixed fee. There are pros and cons to both, and which arrangement works best for you will depend on your particular circumstances.