Real estate law, also known as property law, is a complex field within law that thoroughly utilizes the services of paralegals. Paralegals who work in real estate law must understand the rights and interests of individuals as it relates to commercial and residential real estate and real property. If you have an eye for detail and possess skills in drafting, negotiating, and closing real estate transactions, real estate law might be the right career choice for you.
Paralegals work within real estate law are supervised by attorneys who facilitate the business of real estate. This includes:
- Selling, buying, and leasing land, housing, natural resources, buildings, or similar interests in real estate
- Development and use of property
- Financing large development projects
- Working with real estate investment trusts
Job Duties of the Property Law Paralegal
Paralegals working within the property law field assist attorney with many different tasks in real estate transactions, including:
- Reviewing and preparing general correspondence, mortgages, trust letters, and statements of adjustment
- Reviewing purchase and sale contracts
- Reviewing, requesting, and ordering:
- Real property reports
- Title insurance
- Due diligence searches
- Certificates of title
- Recording important dates
- Maintaining files
- Organizing closing funds
- Preparing a closing checklist, including outlining critical dates and the responsibilities of all involved parties
- Coordinating closing with all parties
- Preparing transfers/affidavits of transferees, closing reports, closing documents, and accounts
In addition to these typical job duties, due diligence activities are an important part of a real estate transaction. These activities are often the duty of the paralegal, including:
- Conducting or arranging for a title search
- Reviewing and analyzing the survey
- Drafting objection letters in the event of any survey and title issues
- Drafting a complaint that challenges a property assessment
- Coordinating a formal property appraisal report
- Preparing a notice of appeal on the valuation of the property, if necessary
After closing, a paralegal’s job is not done. He or she will record all required real estate documents and financial statements. Once the recorded documents are returned, the paralegal will prepare a closing binder the contains copies of all the documents.
Duties According to Employment Setting
As a paralegal working the world of real estate, you can choose from a variety of settings to work in. Settings include in-house legal departments, government agencies, real estate firms, private law firms, lenders, and title companies.
Because there are so many different settings you could work in within the real estate field, expect that you job duties will vary, too. Paralegals who work for a lender or other lien claimant, for example, may handle foreclosure actions. Paralegals who are employed by a firm representing a developer may be tasked with preparing subdivision, condominium, and timeshare registrations.
Paralegals in commercial real estate transactions will also have additional duties and responsibilities, such as:
- Reviewing contracts and leases
- Preparing abstracts for commercial real estate contracts and leases
- Obtaining and preparing corporate documents, like authorization of the applicable parties to purchase/sell
- Conducting public record searches of parties, like judgment, tax liens, and UCC filings
- Ordering environmental assessment and addressing any issues that arise
- Obtaining closing figures from the bank
- Prorate amounts for real and property taxes, utilities, and rent
Working in the real estate sector, paralegals are often asked to draft a number of documents, like promissory notes, security agreements, assignments of rents and leases, draft and negotiate lease terms, modify contracts, and draft subleases.
Education and Certification for Paralegals in Real Estate
Successful paralegals tend to begin their careers by completing a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA programs range in length and proficiency from paralegal certificate programs to associate and bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies.
Currently, there is no minimum educational requirement to become a paralegal. However, most paralegal associations and employers recommend that those who want jobs as paralegals complete an ABA-approved program that consists of at least 60 semester credits, which is equivalent to an associate’s degree. In addition, you should strive to complete an internship. This is an important part of a paralegal’s education because it provides you with real world experience in a specific area of law. It is recommended by many associations that your internship last at least six months.
In addition to formal education and an internship, many paralegals attain voluntary professional paralegal certification. Though voluntary, many employers prefer candidates to possess certification. This serves as an indicatory of a high level of proficiency in, and a commitment to, the paralegal profession.
If you are interested in real estate law, you can attain advanced certification in this area. By attaining this specialized certification, you will demonstrate advanced competency in relevant areas like lease agreements, contracts/agreements for sale, financings, deeds, and much more.
NALA offers advanced certification in two areas of real estate:
- Real Estate – Land Use
- Real Estate – Principles
The advanced certification courses through NALA are part of a self-study programs, and focus on the mastery of specific area of law. Most courses are about 20 hours in length and are organized into multiple, online modules. With this type of course, you can study at your own pace and according to your own schedule.