Hiring a qualified real estate lawyer affords important benefits when involved in any type of real estate transaction. Whether buying a home, a plot of land, or a commercial property, or dealing with foreclosure or liens, real estate transactions involve contracts and myriad other legal documents. Your attorney should have experience in all aspects of real estate transactions to help you through the maze of paperwork and documentation. Choose an experienced attorney who can protect your interests in the event of any unforeseen liabilities that might be attached to the property.
These 10 tips can help you choose the right real estate lawyer.
1. Choose a lawyer who specializes in real estate.
Because rules and regulations regarding real estate transactions are often complex and subject to change, you need a real estate specialist to help you navigate. Not every lawyer has the qualifications and experience necessary to attend to your real estate legal needs. Real estate lawyers are specialists who keep abreast of changes in the market, regulations, and statutes. General practice attorneys are not usually as well-informed in real estate law.
2. Hire a lawyer with extensive experience.
Experience counts. You may be tempted to work with a family friend or the lawyer who handled your brother’s divorce. Instead, ask them for a referral to a competent real estate specialist. Choose someone with more than just a few years of experience, who has handled a substantial number of successful transactions. Their extensive experience qualifies them to provide you the best guidance and legal advice. Real estate transactions can be complicated and stressful. A competent lawyer can help ease your concerns by ensuring that all documents are in order and ready for your signature, that the deed has been drafted, and all other necessary paperwork has been completed in accordance with the law.
3. Look for an honest lawyer.
Although this seems obvious, people often rush to hire someone without performing due diligence. Many lawyers/law firms offer free initial consultations. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet and learn more about the lawyer under consideration before deciding to hire. Ask questions at your initial meeting. Trust your intuition. If the lawyer seems too confident in your case without discussing possible risks, or minimizes any associated costs, walk away. Every legal case, regardless of how sure it may seem, carries the potential for failure.
4. Get information from your state’s bar association.
Get information from your state’s bar association. The bar association in your state or town can provide you a list of licensed real estate attorneys within your local area. In addition to finding referrals to real estate lawyers properly licensed in the practice of law, you can visit their website for more information. The local bar association also provides general information on whether an individual lawyer has been subject to disciplinary action, a definite red flag. Other red flags include:
The bar association in your state or town can provide you a list of licensed real estate attorneys within your local area. In addition to finding referrals to real estate lawyers properly licensed in the practice of law, you can visit their website for more information.
The local bar association also provides general information on whether an individual lawyer has been subject to disciplinary action, a definite red flag. Other red flags include:
- Fees substantially lower or higher than other lawyers/firms in the same locality.
- Unwillingness to provide references from present or former clients.
- Numerous negative reviews from previous clients with cases similar to yours.
5. Real estate agents are not lawyers.
A real estate agent can assist you in buying or selling a property, however, some transactions require a real estate lawyer’s expertise. A realtor’s knowledge and experience has limits, and their contracts are typically standard industry “boiler plate” forms.
Hiring a real estate lawyer allows you to create a customized sales contract with any special clauses or provisions you desire. A real estate agent has no ability to create anything other than a standardized contract. A contract with unusual wording or legal terminology must be dealt with by a real estate lawyer.
6. Take time to read reviews.
The Internet offers numerous sites for clients to post reviews of their lawyers. These can help you determine whether a particular attorney is a good fit for you. Reading a large number of reviews gives you a good idea where an attorney stands on your issues and the type of service provided. Pay attention to patterns of a particular type of questionable or inappropriate behavior.
Be discerning about the reviews you read. Understand that the reviewer may simply be a disgruntled client with an axe to grind. Likewise, a glowing statement might indicate a paid reviewer. If possible, talk to someone in your area who knows the attorney you’re considering, and look for reviews from legal colleagues who’ve worked with them.
7. Call a lawyer before you sign a contract.
Arrange to meet with an attorney before signing a contract to ask for legal advice about anything with which you disagree. It’s much better to discover problems before you sign. Suppose you purchase a property, only to learn you owe outstanding liens for unpaid taxes. You inherited those unpaid taxes along with the property. Removing yourself from responsibility will be expensive—involving legal fees, court costs, and a host of other applicable fees. Had you hired an attorney at the outset, you would have avoided this predicament. Yes, lawyers do cost money, but you’re better off paying an attorney to spot any problems before you sign on the dotted line.
8. Your lawyer should be accessible.
The purchase and/or sale of your home can be exciting and stressful at the same time. You may feel the anticipation of moving in, or the excitement of receiving funds from the sale. The unfamiliarity surrounding the necessary paperwork can also create stress. A good real estate lawyer understands the mix of emotions and still ensures a smooth transition in every real estate transaction.
The real estate business does not operate on a set schedule. Often, buyers view properties in the evenings and on weekends. As a result, sellers often must work with their listings at the end of their ordinary daily obligations. A good real estate lawyer is both flexible and responsive to the needs and requirements of smooth real estate transactions. Your lawyer should:
- Respond promptly to calls and emails.
- You should not have to wait longer than 48 hours for an answer to your questions.
- Have a set timeline for completing a transaction.
- Whether buying or selling, your lawyer should be able to meet that deadline.
- Develop a to-do list and schedule with clients.
- You both need to know what to complete and when. Both buyer and seller have goals in mind, with timelines that allow the contracts to reach their attorneys for review.
- Be available for evening and/or weekend meetings when necessary.
- Offer meetings offsite for an additional fee.
- A lawyer who cares about your needs will arrange to meet at your office, your home, or in the local coffee shop if need be. These offsite meetings places may cost extra, but they are worth the convenience.
9. Your lawyer should be able to communicate in a way you can understand.
Your real estate lawyer knows a vast amount about the ins and outs of real estate transactions. Their formal education and hands-on experience allow them to decode all the legal concepts and manage every aspect of both purchases and sales. Thus, a qualified real estate lawyer is able to present information to you in language you can understand.
Legal documents related to real estate transactions tend to change over the years. Your lawyer should be able to explain why you must sign each, and exactly what each means in plain language.
10. Your lawyer must be able to assess the needs of your transaction and know if your goals and considerations can be met.
Most real estate transactions, both sales and purchase, follow a regular pattern. Real estate lawyers and mortgage professionals maintain specific checklists and follow certain protocols to ensure transactions will proceed smoothly. While most real estate transaction fit into familiar categories, your lawyer must consider and assess your unique needs from the beginning.
During your initial consultation with your lawyer, they will need to determine whether the property and transaction fit your goals and circumstances. Look for them to find creative solutions to address your personal concerns. You need to know your lawyer is protecting your best interests.
The right real estate lawyer helps lower your stress levels.
The right real estate lawyer can help your transaction proceed smoothly, and lower stress levels for you as either a buyer or seller. Legal-Yogi stresses the need for an experienced, seasoned attorney whose practice specializes in handling real estate transactions.
Find the best attorney through research and recommendations. Conducting research through your state bar association can provide valuable information. Is a particular lawyer properly licensed; has he undergone any disciplinary action? Reading online reviews may be helpful, as long as they are genuine and unbiased. One negative review out of 300 good ones looks like a disgruntled client. One good review out of a hundred poor ones should make you skeptical enough to find someone else.
Legal-Yogi can help.
Legal-Yogi helps you find the right real estate lawyer for your specific issues. Our substantial network of professionals extends throughout the country. Simply fill out the contact form, or call toll-free 1-800-397-1755 to speak with an expert. They’ll assess your needs and refer you to real estate attorneys most likely to match your situation.