The information in this answer is general information and is not intended as legal advice, nor do I intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader by answering this question or otherwise contributing as a member of Trulia.com.
They should cover things with you like breach of contract, specific performance, non-disclosure, fraud or misrepresentation -- which happens every minute of everyday ... .
And for those pesky little real estate broker issues like possible claims against, or their agents, including negligence, fraud/misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, disclosure obligations - ya know, stuff like that .
If you ever open-up a storefront or a business you need to understand things like a commercial purchase or a lease and how a breach of contract is really structured and things like specific performance or any "non-disclosures" --- which again, happens everyday ...
If you're building a house, anything "can" and "will" happen, believe me ... so it's nice to have someone there that truly understands things like construction defects and mechanic's liens or disputes that owners, builders and contractors often have ...
And lets not forget that nutty neighbor across the street that just constructed that 33ft statue of Dale Earnhardt, thats gotta go ......... A good real estate attorney knows all the land use and zoning matters and he'll move with representation of the property owners before governmental entities (cities, counties, zoning boards, design review boards) relating to this land use application...
A good attorney can also break down all of those crazy variances, zoning exceptions, and any "new" approvals, "and" any special use permits, as well as any common interest communities, including the enforcement of the local covenants and conditions & restrictions.
But whatever it takes --- Dale is gotta go ..l.o.l....
Good luck and happy hunting.!
I considered it a $625 well spent and my general opinion is that if you can't afford to have the real estate atty review the contract, on what it likely your largest purchase ever, then you either cannot afford the home or you are very foolish.
My contract review cost was on the higher side as it was a builder contract and was "non-standard". That being said, the California standard real estate contracts are common and pretty bullet proof; the big differences come into play on the contingencies and which allow you to get out of the contract or allow reduction in price.
Karoline has a very good point. California is a state filled with consumer protections. Disclose, disclose, disclose is the Realtor's mantra.
It's important to note that each individual that recommended consulting an attorney, is from another state, most likely a state with fewer consumer protections. The majority of my business is in Long Beach, & I have never represented a client who felt they needed a lawyer to approve a contract.
The cost can vary, depending on how "standard" your contract is, your lawyer's knowledge of real estate (you don't want someone who has to spend a couple of extra hours researching terms and concepts that a real estate lawyer should know), and the lawyer's hourly rate. The cost might range anywhere from $250-$750, though you might find numbers outside those bounds, too. One other option is to sign up with one of the prepaid legal services. They do use real lawyers. And though my experience with them hasn't been particularly good, it certainly would be much better than nothing. And prepaid legal services typically run $29-$49 a month.
Contact me if you have more questions.
In most standard real estate contracts (and I hope a California agent will chime in here -- Sylvia?), there is an attorney review clause that allows your attorney to review the terms and conditions of the contract, make any suggested modifications, and, should those suggested modficiations not be agreed-upon by the other party, still allow you, as a buyer, the opportunity to cancel the contract without penalty.
If the contract you are using is standard, most attorneys will know it in their sleep and easily be able to review it and make any suggested modifications (to protect your best interest) within the specified attorney review timeframe.
However, if you are using a non-standard contract (ie, a builder contract), it is advisable to have an attorney review the terms and conditions before signing. If this is not possible (i.e, the builder will not allow you to access the contract for preview), be sure to CAREFULLY read the attorney review clause within the contract to know what your rights will be to cancel the contract, should it be necessary.
It is not necessary. What are the issues that you are concerned about? Is there a certain property that you plan to make an offer on? Is there something unusual about the property or the transaction?
What you need is a strong buyer's agent to guide you through the process.
Best of luck,