During the times of the 13 American colonies, only real estate attorneys, who were appointed by the General Court that answered directly to the colonial governor and the Crown, could conduct real estate transactions. Real estate law was structured under politically ulterior motives, so only male landowners who were also members of the Church of England could practice real estate.
Today, many closings are conducted without an attorney present. This largely depends on the jurisdiction and the various agreements between the parties involved in the transaction. As for taking real estate cases to court, only attorneys who are members of state bar associations can litigate. In some jurisdictions, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the practice of real estate law includes closings. This means only attorneys who have been admitted to the real estate section of the bar association can conduct them.
Let’s look at a few things you should know about real estate law in the United States:
What is Real Estate Law?
This field of law governs the ownership, use, and transfer of real property. Real property is property that cannot be moved. For example, land and anything that is permanently attached to it such as buildings, trees, and fences is real property. This practice of law is a complex and ever-changing field that reflects the residential and commercial market, the widespread implementation of technology, and political influence in the state legislatures.
Why is it Important to Understand?
Having a good grasp of this kind of law is important for anyone who owns, buys, or sells real property. Some real estate professionals are expected to prove their knowledge and a good understanding of real estate law even if they are not lawyers. Realtors, mortgage brokers, and title insurance agents cannot obtain a state license or be appointed unless they have passed tests that include topics related to real estate law.
A good knowledge of the law can protect your rights and interests in real property transactions. These can include closings, property title transfers, inheritance, rent-to-own mortgages, and others. You should also learn to spot fraud and understand the concept of property titles, so that you have all of the information needed before purchasing a property.
Types of Real Estate Law and Jurisdictional Differences
You can find various focuses of practice in modern real estate. Contract law, for example, is often tied to complex commercial property deals and transactions. You also have zoning law, fair housing, and environmental issues that require a more narrow focus on legal practice.
It is crucial to understand that laws differ from state to state. Each jurisdiction has its own statutes and case law that govern real estate transactions. A valid property sale contract, for example, may not be the same in Florida and Wyoming. Additionally, the laws that protect buyers and sellers in real estate transactions may also vary. This explains why some states have laws and rules that require attorneys present at the closing table even if there is no title insurance as part of the transaction.