Do You Need a Real Estate Lawyer to Buy a House in New York?

In the city of New York, it is not legally required to have a real estate lawyer to buy a residence, but most real estate agents won’t sell to people who don’t have one, simply because of the complexity involved in buying property within the Five Boroughs.
That complexity involves a great deal more than the usual large expense of the purchase. There are contracts, liens, titles, taxes and zoning laws to consider when buying a home, a condo, or a co-op. This is especially the case when buying a co-op apartment, since co-ops have boards, with meetings and minutes thereof.
The property seller will almost certainly have a real estate lawyer to do most of the drafting of the contract, so a buyer going into a potential transaction without his own lawyer would have to review the contract without, in most cases, a thorough knowledge of real estate law or the real estate market. It would be like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Most real estate agents advise potential buyers to talk to two or three real estate lawyers before settling on one, and to settle on one before making an offer on a residence. A seller, and the seller’s lawyer, will have more respect for a buyer who has the kind of representation that makes it look like he knows what he’s doing. The right lawyer will find evidence of things like increases of rent that are frequent (or previously larger than could be expected), complaints of noisy residents, mechanical issues such as problems with the electricity or heating, or infestations of insects or vermin; any one of these things could be a red flag that a buyer should not face alone.
Residential real estate lawyers in New York generally charge per hour, especially if the property is multi-family, as in a brownstone. Most high-rises will only be owned by corporations.
A real estate agent can recommend a real estate lawyer that they say has been trustworthy before. But if the buyer suspects that such a lawyer would tend to favor the agent or the seller, he can look for one more to his liking in a listing of the State Bar Association.
For more information about finding a real estate lawyer in NYC, click here.
Michael Pacholek writes for a variety of New York sites.