Even if you do not hire an attorney to help handle the sale itself, you may need help figuring out tax consequences from the sale of your home. The Internal Revenue Service allows sellers to exclude a portion of their profits from selling a home under certain circumstances; an attorney familiar with the tax code can advise you as to the best way to handle the sale so that you pay the least amount of taxes on the home.
Many real estate agents use standard purchase agreements. A lawyer can help draft an agreement that meets the needs of both the buyer and seller and can help explain the purchase agreement so that both buyer and seller understand its provisions. A lawyer is particularly helpful if the agreement contains non-standard provisions, as the buyer or seller may be wary of an agreement that sounds unusual.
Brokerage agreements specify the circumstances under which a seller must pay a brokerage fee to the real estate agent. Without this agreement, a seller may be liable for this fee even if the buyer backs out of the deal or the seller decides she doesn't want to sell the house. An attorney can explain brokerage agreements to sellers, ensure that agreements are fair and properly signed and negotiate with the real estate agent if something goes wrong.
A lawyer can help the seller navigate the closing process, which otherwise may be complex or confusing. In addition, other parties to the sale usually have attorneys; if the seller's attorney is the only one not present at the closing meeting or the seller does not have an attorney, it puts him at a disadvantage. At closing, as throughout the sale process, the seller's attorney is the only person involved in the sale whose job is to protect the seller's best interests.