What they do: A lawyer can help you negotiate the real estate contract, and renegotiate it if a home inspection finds flaws or an appraisal deems the house less valuable than the sales price. A lawyer also represents your interests at the closing and does the lion's share of paperwork and coordination associated with it.
Why you might want one: Unlike most of the people involved in the purchase of a home, a real estate lawyer is dedicated to looking out for your interests at each stage. You don't need one technically, but the short-term savings of not hiring one may pale in comparison to the long-term costs of not negotiating the best deal or walking away from a bad one.
Where to find one: Ask for referrals from your local bar association, your real estate agent or your mortgage broker. Also, ask friends, colleagues and family whom they've had a good experience working with.
Cost: Varies by state and by amount of work required. Fee structures also vary (some lawyers charge by the hour, others by flat fee, some by both depending on the task) but a ballpark range for what a buyer may pay in total is $350 to $1,000, said Marjorie Bardwell, a real estate attorney at Chicago Title Insurance Company. In high-cost areas like New Jersey, you may pay as much as $1,500, said real estate attorney Stuart Lieberman.