What You Need to Know to Pick the Right Real Estate Attorney

If you are a first-time or new investor, you might be intimidated when gurus, teachers, and other Investors start throwing around the phrase “your team.” I know I was. They are referring to the team of servicers who are going to be your right hand men when you orchestrate a real estate transaction. They are your real estate attorney, contractor, title and/or closing agent, mortgage broker, accountant, insurance agent, and your herd of real estate agents. For someone who has never bought and sold an investment property, trying to assemble the right team members is a daunting task.

In order to help you avoid some costly mistakes, here is some advice and some questions to ask when you are interviewing perhaps the most important member of your team – your real estate attorney…

Dealing with an inexperienced or uninformed real estate attorney could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars and many nights’ sleep. You need to be sure that your attorney is up to speed on all of the latest laws and regulations that are being enacted. If not, you could end up paying for their mistakes.

A great way to find real estate attorneys who are knowledgeable of the creative real estate niche is to ask other Investors in your area. Go to a local REIA meeting and ask which attorney people are using. You can also ask local real estate brokers and agents for referrals. A last resort should be looking in the Yellow Pages for real estate attorneys. This should be a last resort because any lawyer can place an ad in the yellow pages. You are looking for ones who are recommended by people in the business.

Another good idea is to go to your local library and check out a copy of the Martindale Hubbell legal directory. It lists attorneys by location, tells you where they went to school, and rates them. It is a good idea to also look up the attorneys that come with a personal recommendation in this directory

Do not settle on the first attorney you call. You need to interview a number of them and pick the one that you are most comfortable with, who has the best referrals, and who seems the most knowledgeable about what you are doing. There are a lot of attorneys out there who will shoot down your ideas just because they don’t understand the law.

Here are some questions to ask when you are interviewing a prospective real estate attorney.

1. How often do you handle residential real estate deals?
2. Do you work with other investors?
3. How long have you been practicing in this particular area?
4. Do you have any investor references?
5. Do you normally represent buyers? Sellers? Banks?
6. Do you understand the scope of what I will be doing and the services I will be needing? Do you do subject-to transactions? Short sales? Back to back closings?
7. Who will be working on my cases?
8. How do you charge for your services?
9. Do you have malpractice or errors and omissions insurance?
a. They must hold at least enough insurance to cover the home you are going to buy.
10. Have you ever been disciplined by the Bar Association?

Keep in mind while you are dealing with the attorney that YOU are the customer. You should be suspicious of any attorney who is stand-offish, aloof, or says things like “Don’t worry about it, I know what’s best,” without addressing your needs or concerns. If they make you uncomfortable, move on to the next one.

Remember, it is better to pay more for an experienced real estate attorney than to find the cheapest guy in the phone book and hope nothing goes wrong. One small mistake on your attorney’s part could end up costing you thousands and destroying your reputation. Don’t be cheap, but don’t get hosed.