Commercial real estate transactions — including buying and selling, leases, and construction — can range from simple to complex. You may be able to manage a more straightforward exchange yourself without the need for assistance from a third party. For more complicated transactions, though, it makes more sense to bring in a commercial real estate attorney.
What does a commercial real estate lawyer do?
A commercial real estate attorney is a lawyer who specializes in the laws and ordinances concerning commercial real estate — anything dealing with the buying, selling, development, or leasing of real property that is used for business. A house is not considered commercial real estate, but a condo or apartment complex is, because the owner uses the property to make a profit.
Note that a commercial real estate agent is not the same thing as a commercial real estate attorney. Real estate agents are very useful for the specific purpose of linking up buyers and sellers, but they are not qualified to give legal advice or to navigate the complex legal details involved in many of these transactions.
Here are just a few reasons to enlist the help of a commercial real estate attorney with your transaction:
- Help drafting documents
As you can probably imagine, any kind of legal documentation — loans, Texas property contracts, sales, leases, mortgages, and so on — can get complicated fast. Commercial real estate paperwork is no exception. Everything must be spelled out: the exact terms of the transaction, each party’s obligations, financial liability and more. Anything left unmentioned leaves you open to potential litigation or disputes down the road. These documents can also be quite jargon-heavy.
Yes, you can theoretically use stock paperwork to build out your own documentation, but in practice, a professional who knows what they’re doing will save you a lot of time and will make sure all paperwork is completed correctly. There are no take-backs once you’ve signed a legal contract! A lawyer will also be familiar with any commercial real estate terms you don’t happen to know.
- An experienced eye on the property
A good attorney will explain each step of how to buy commercial property, including the inspection process. Commercial real estate buyers are less protected than residential property buyers. It will be largely up to you to do your own due diligence in making sure you make a good purchase. An inspection is only as good as the person doing the inspection, however. Your attorney will be equipped with a commercial building inspections checklist and will get trained eyes on the property to make sure everything is up to industry standards before any kind of contract is signed. They will know what warning signs to look for in any environmental reports and property surveys.
This protects sellers as well as buyers, by the way. A commercial real estate attorney can ensure that any inspections performed on your property are qualified and fair. An attorney can also help you navigate zoning laws, boundary disputes, and potential compliance issues during construction or renovation.
- Someone negotiating on your behalf
Hiring an attorney with knowledge of legal terms and processes will give you a leg up in negotiations, especially if the other party or parties involved have their own legal representation. It’s much more difficult to negotiate when you are uninformed; an attorney will be able to leverage their knowledge of legal details and contracts to get you the best possible deal. Also, unlike realtors who are motivated by their own commission, your attorney has one priority: protecting the interests of their client (you).
In addition to negotiating a fair price in real estate purchase and sale agreements, attorneys can help you negotiate clauses and details, such as what will happen if issues are discovered with the property after the sale is closed. In leases and rental agreements, an attorney can negotiate terms like renewal conditions, who is responsible for maintenance costs, and, of course, the basic cost of the transaction. All of this applies for the renegotiation of expiring leases.
Texas real estate attorney fees can vary greatly depending on your specific circumstances and the services they will be providing. But don’t let fear of expense keep you from bringing a professional on board. The benefits — like the peace of mind knowing that your transactions won’t blow up in your face later — are worth it, and doing it right the first time can actually save you money in the long run.