Real estate transactions may call for a real estate attorney. But, what should you look for when choosing someone that will represent your best interests and needs to the fullest? Some states mandate the use of a lawyer in a real estate transaction. Such states include Georgia, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.
Not all real estate issues are the same so when narrowing down the search for a real estate attorney pay attention to the specialized focus of a practice. For instance, one attorney may specialize in residential where another one may work exclusively with commercial or landlord-tenants. It’s also a good idea to distinguish what type of lawyer you need. An attorney who focuses on contracts and transactions is known as a transactional lawyer. Whereas an attorney who specializes in handling lawsuits is referred to as a litigator. Just because a real estate attorney may advertise that they specialize in real estate law, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best person for the job. Just as you would interview a real estate professional before listing your home, it’s important to vet carefully an attorney before hiring them.
Here are the top 5 questions to ask when interviewing real estate attorneys:
How long have you been practicing? If the transaction is complicated, then you will most likely want someone who has a great deal of experience.
What experience do you have in the real estate law field? The answers to this will vary. But ideally, you want to know where they graduated from, how many similar cases they have handled, etc.
How will my case be handled? The worst thing to do is enlist the services of an attorney only to find out that they aren’t the ones actually working on your case. Watch for other individuals that may help in the case that may not be licensed. Alternatively, a paralegal or junior attorney could also be assigned to the case.
What costs are involved? Fee schedules will vary from one lawyer to the next and it’s best to know a ballpark figure going in rather than being surprised with a massive bill later on. On average, an hourly fee may range anywhere between $150 to $500+. Some firms may also require a retainer up front before taking the case. This is not that uncommon.
Can you provide me with references? In the interview process, it never hurts to ask for references to see what others thought of the lawyer.
Doing your homework on an attorney before hiring can save you headaches in the end as a good lawyer is worth their weight in gold. Aside from a personal interview, you can also turn to online resources to find additional information on attorneys. You can find attorney’s listed under the state bar association and there are also a wide variety of lawyer referral services. A Google search will also turn up some results as well. Researching online will involve checking out the attorney websites to learn more about their credentials and specialties.
When conducting your search for a real estate attorney make sure that there is no conflict of interest with them representing you. Once you have narrowed down the field to just one attorney, then a retainer agreement or engagement letter is typically provided to you which will outline in writing what to expect regarding fees and services to be provided. It’s important that you fully understand the terms of this document as ‘lawyer language’ can be confusing. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them as the only dumb question is one not asked.