Real estate transactions, both residential and commercial, can be highly complex, requiring knowledgeable professionals who are capable of navigating the intricacies associated with acquisitions, dispositions, and financing.
Real estate law paralegals are part any good real estate legal team, managing the stacks of documents, forms, and legal papers that accompany a real estate transaction. Their work includes ensuring all necessary forms and documents are received from clients and that all associated paperwork is completed and signed. They also ensure every step of the real estate transaction adheres to local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
Beyond the real estate transaction (buying and selling property), real estate paralegals work alongside real estate attorneys that deal with property issues related to:
- Tenant, title, and other issues attached to a property
- Commercial leases
- Zoning or environmental hazards or concerns
- Foreclosure proceedings
- Boundary disputes
- Trespass or encroachment issues
- Property covenants or restrictions
The Job Duties and Responsibilities of a Real Estate Paralegal
According to the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, real estate is among the top areas of law and is expected to add the greatest number of legal jobs in the next two years.
Given the complexity of real estate law, the job duties and responsibilities of a real estate paralegal are plentiful, making paralegals specializing in this area of law a valuable asset to law firms, banks, government agencies, and title companies.
Their job duties cover the real estate gamut, from buying and selling to foreclosing, leasing, and transferring real estate.
Job duties of real estate paralegals include:
- Maintaining correspondence between all parties of the transaction, including buyers, sellers, title companies, lenders, surveyors, appraisers, etc.
- Ensuring all deadlines are met
- Researching and reviewing details of title commitments, surveys, etc.
- Creating and reviewing closing documents
- Preparing deeds and mortgages
- Reviewing and plotting legal descriptions of land
- Filing all necessary documents with the appropriate agencies
- Conducting legal research, including title searches
- Preparing exhibits and documents for court proceedings
- Scheduling meetings
- Preparing corporate resolutions
- Reviewing leases, titles, surveys, and loan documentation for accuracy and completion
Education and Certification Opportunities
Paralegal degree and certificate programs receive accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). To date, no minimum educational requirements exist for paralegal practice in the U.S., so paralegal programs are offered at every level, from associate degrees to master’s degrees.
An associate degree from an ABA-approved program is generally viewed as the minimum educational requirement to become a paralegal. Both the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) recommend programs of no less than 60 semester credits—the equivalent to an associate’s degree.
The internship is an important step for becoming a paralegal, as it provides new graduates with the opportunity to begin working in real estate law.
A number of paralegal associations offer professional certification programs, all of which are voluntary but highly regarded by employers:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP) credential (CRP)
- PACE Registered Paralegal credential (RP)
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- Certified Paralegal (CP) credential
- NALS – The Association for Legal Professionals
- Professional Paralegal (PP) credential
- American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)
- American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential
Additionally, real estate career diploma certificate programs (not to be confused with the professional certification named above) provide an opportunity for paralegal professionals to receive advanced training in real estate law. These programs typically consist of three or four courses and many can be completed online. Most programs require that students have a degree in paralegal studies and/or related paralegal experience.
Coursework in a paralegal certificate program in real estate law includes:
- Real estate law and concurrent ownership
- Condominiums, time shares, and cooperatives
- Real estate contracts
- Mortgages and real estate finance
- Title examinations and real estate closings
- Nonpossessory interests and landlord/tenant issues