This article estimates real estate attorney cost based on multiple data sources, and it was compiled by a real estate attorney familiar with the industry. The below table summarizes some of the most common price points. Attorney fees on a simple residential transaction may be $500 to $1,000. But real estate litigation can easily cost $5,000 to $15,000. Quiet title actions and partition actions may cost $1,500 to $5,000, while hourly rates can range from $150 to $500 per hour depending on location.
|Attorney Fees for a Residential Real Estate Transaction||$500 – $1,500|
|Attorney Fees for a Commercial Real Estate Transaction||$1,500 – $15,000|
|Attorney Fees for Real Estate Litigation||$150 – $500 / hr.|
|Attorney Fees for a Quiet Title Action||$1,500 – $5,000|
|Attorney Fees for a Partition Action (forced sale)||$3,000 – $6,000|
|Attorney Fees for a Probate or Ancillary Probate||$2,500 – $7,500|
|Attorney Fees for an Eviction (uncontested)||$300 – $1,000|
Attorney Cost for a Residential Real Estate Transaction
The average cost of a real estate attorney for a residential real estate transaction ranges from $500 to $1,500 (see more specific estimates below). Costs vary depending on the attorney’s role. In some states, an attorney handles the entire closing process in-house. In other states, a title company handles the closing process.
The numbers below are rough estimates of attorney fees for different types of services:
- $500 – $700: Real estate contract drafting or review.
- $1,000 – $1,500: General transaction counsel with contract review, advice, and closing counsel.
- $1,500 – $3,000: Attorney in-house closings (no title company), or more complex transactions with title issues, negotiations, or minor disputes.
As supported by data from Zillow, costs of $500 to $1,500 are typical for a relatively simple residential transaction. This fee often includes review or drafting a real estate purchase contract, general advice on the transaction, and review of title work and closing documents.
Simple Contract Drafting or Review. Sometimes, the attorney’s only role is to review or draft a real estate purchase contract. In this case, you might expect costs from $500 – $700. This would not include more involved services such as negotiation, closing assistance, or resolution of transaction disputes.
General Transaction Counsel. If your attorney does nothing more than review or draft a simple contract, answer some general questions, and look over closing documents without identifying any major issues, then you should not pay much more than $1,500.
Complex Transactions and In-House Closings. If the transaction is more complex than usual, or if complications arise, attorney fees could increase beyond the average. For example, unexpected title issues or disagreements between the parties prior to closing can require additional time investment from the attorney. On an hourly model, additional time equals additional cost. Some sources even predict up to $3,000 for a standard residential transaction.
Attorney Cost for a Commercial Real Estate Transaction
For standard commercial closings on small multi-family properties, a real estate attorney may cost $1,500 – $2,500. For large, complex transactions a real estate attorney may cost $3,000 – $10,000. On very large transactions or heavily negotiated transactions, fees can easily exceed $10,000.
- $1,500 – $2,500: Small commercial transactions where services are limited to basic contract drafting and review, general counsel, and basic closing review.
- $3,000 – $10,000: Mid-size commercial transactions, or small transactions involving title issues, minor disputes, or heavy negotiations.
- $10,000 – $30,000: Large commercial transactions, or transactions involving complex issues such as curative title working, zoning compliance, land use issues, or disputes.
Some sources estimate commercial transaction fees as low as $1,500 to $2,000, but this estimate refers to limited closing services.
To more accurately predict cost, develop a clear understanding of which tasks will be delegated to an attorney as opposed to a title company, broker, or CPA.
Often, a commercial broker is expected to do much more than simply connect the buyer and seller. Commercial brokers earn a very large commission due to the high purchase price in commercial transactions, so they often perform a greater share of the work generated by the transaction than a residential broker. Before incurring another fixed cost in the form of attorney fees, make sure you cannot delegate certain transactional tasks to your broker, whose fee is already a sunk cost.
Likewise, consider whether your CPA or tax advisor should play a role in the transaction. If your CPA will already be reviewing the mechanics of the transaction for tax purposes at the end of the year, there is no need to double that function by delegating it to your real estate attorney. That said, sometimes a real estate attorney is in the best position to evaluate tax consequences.
Attorney Cost for Real Estate Litigation
Attorney fees for real estate litigation generally range from $150 to $400 per hour. Due to the unpredictable nature of litigation, it is difficult to accurately estimate the total cost of a case in advance. Standard civil litigation can cost $10,000 or more, while a simple small claims action can cost $2,500.
- $150 – $500 / Hour: Attorney Hourly Rates for Litigation. In small towns or rural areas, rates of $150 to $250 are common. In larger cities, rates are often $250 to $500 per hour. In rare cases at large firms, hourly rates can even exceed $1,000 per hour.
- $10,000 – $20,000: Standard Civil Litigation. For a “normal” civil lawsuit with discovery, motions practice, and pre-trial preparation, attorney fees might range from $10,000 to $20,000. If the case goes to trial, fees could exceed $20,000. If the case settles early, fees might be cut short well below $10,000.
- $2,500: Small Claims Litigation. For a simple small claims case, in which your attorney prepares for and argues a single hearing, attorney fees might range from $2,000 to $3,000. This is a very general estimate, and costs could differ depending on whether your attorney simply gives you limited advice while you argue the case, or takes the primary role in your case.
Attorney Cost for an Uncontested Quiet Title Action
A quiet title action typically costs between $1,500 and $5,000 in attorney fees. If the quiet title is contested (opposed) then costs may exceed $5,000. To better estimate the cost of a contested quiet title, refer to the estimates above on real estate litigation.
- $1,500 to $2,000: Simple, uncontested quiet title. Some quiet titles are relatively routine, such as a quiet title after a tax sale. If the quiet title involves simple or routine title defects, costs may stay below $2,000.
- $2,000 to $5,000: Complex or irregular quiet title. Some quiet titles involve multiple title defects or abnormal situations, which greatly increases an attorney’s time investment.
Can you recover your attorney fees in a quiet title action? Yes, in certain cases. Fee recovery is something you can always seek, but you should never count on it. You should only pursue a quiet title action if you are comfortable paying your own attorney.
Attorney Cost for a Partition Action (forced sale)
A partition action, also known as a forced sale lawsuit, may cost $3,000 – $6,000 in attorney fees. However, if the partition action is contested or opposed, legal costs can exceed $10,000 as estimated above in the real estate litigation section.
In a partition lawsuit, the primary goal is to divide the property among co-owners or sell the property and divide the money among co-owners. Most of the time, the property must be sold and the money divided among its owners. In many states, attorney fees are considered a “cost” of the partition action. For this reason, attorney fees are sometimes paid at the end of the lawsuit from the sale proceeds. However, this assumes that the property will indeed sell at some point. If for any reason the sale does not occur, you may still be liable for the attorney fees incurred.
Attorney Fees for a Probate or Ancillary Probate
Attorney fees for a probate often range from $2,500 to $7,500. Small estate probates or ancillary probates may cost $2,000 to $4,000, while probates on larger or more complex estates may cost $4,000 to $7,500 or even higher. This assumes the probate remains uncontested. For litigation estimates, see above.
Sometimes, attorneys charge for probate as a percentage of the estate value. Other times, the attorney charges a flat fee. If the probate is complex, unpredictable, or contested, then an hourly fee is more likely.
One source estimates probate fees as follows:
- $2,500 or less in about 33% of probate cases
- $2,500 to $10,000 in about 45% of probate cases
- $10,000 or higher in about 25% of probate cases
Attorney Fees for an Eviction (uncontested)
An uncontested eviction may cost $300 to $1,000. Simple, routine evictions performed at scale for large companies may cost $300 – $500 each. But at that rate, the attorney is not spending much time on your case. Contested or complicated evictions can generate real estate litigation, causing fees of $2,500 to $10,000.
Keep in mind that an eviction requires filing fees and a sheriff’s fee in addition to attorney fees. One source estimates filing fees between $100 and $400 depending on your state, plus another $50 – $400 for sheriff’s fees. In addition, you must factor in financial damages, property damages, and lost rent if applicable.