A home is the largest investment most people will ever make. While using an attorney is not required, for a modest fee (our firm charges $500 for residential closings on property located in Lake County, IL) you can avoid a huge number of potential pitfalls. Your real estate broker and your lender typically work on commission. They have a financial incentive to get the deal closed regardless of the consequences to you. A lawyer is bound to care only about your best interests.
When you make an offer on a home, your real estate agent assists you through the negotiation process. When you strike a deal, the agent will draw up a contract for sale. Lawyers are experts in contracts. If there's any language included in the contract that you don't fully understand, a real estate lawyer can explain it to you. If retained promptly after the contract is signed, a lawyer can also make favorable changes to the standard contract and even cancel the contract if the transaction is not in your best interests.
Lawyers are experts in title issues and can explain to you limitations on the use of your property. They will also make sure that you get adequate title insurance in case a hidden or unknown defect in the title is discovered in the future.
Lenders typically require you to sign a lot of paperwork. A lawyer will review that paperwork with you to make sure you understand it and to prevent you from signing any inappropriate or unnecessary documents.