5 Important Questions To Ask A Prospective Real Estate Attorney

By on July 16, 2018

There are some members of your real estate investing team that are more important than others. A good real estate attorney is near the top of that list. Not only does a good attorney walk you through contracts and help with negotiation but they also provide advice to keep you from adverse situations. It is not a stretch to say that a quality attorney can singlehandedly shape the trajectory of your business for the better. You need to take your time and make sure your attorney is the right fit for you and your business. Using a close friend who focuses on personal injury law may not be the best match. As you search for the right attorney there are a few things you need to know. Ask a prospective attorney partner these five important questions to see if they are a good fit.

  • Is real estate your primary practice? As we mentioned, a good attorney in another area of practice doesn’t make a good real estate attorney. The starting point for any discussion must be how well they know real estate law and if they can handle closings. Real estate is a specific niche of the business that not every attorney wants to get into. This doesn’t have to be their sole area of focus, but they need to know what they are doing. Using an inexperienced attorney in real estate will cause delays in the process that could impact in the closing. If they practice real estate they should be able to pull title quicker, know what documents are needed and handle closing paperwork. They don’t need to work in real estate for twenty years. Some of the best attorneys can be right out of school, but at a minimum they need to practice real estate law.
  • Do you have a staff? Real estate closings are very similar to poker tournaments. You can wait for long periods of time but when it is your turn to act you better be ready. Every closing is at least a little bit time sensitive and there are important dates needed to hit. Your attorney needs to be able to get you what you need in a timely fashion. Even for dedicated real estate attorneys, real estate may only account for 75% of their business. They may take an occasional court case or work with an eviction. They are not going to sit around waiting in their office for business. You need to ask them if they have a paralegal or someone else on their staff you can reach out to during the process. If they focus on real estate, you can bet they will have at least one other person handling the day to day tasks. This is critical if you need a question answered or if something comes up in a pinch. Having a good attorney is important but having a good support team means even more for you.
  • How do you communicate? In any relationship communication is important. When working with an attorney there is a balance you need to understand. Yes, the deal you are involved in means the world to you and is important, but it is not the only deal your attorney is working on. You can’t expect them to drop whatever they are doing every time you call. That being said, you need to feel that your attorney is on top of everything and can keep you in the loop during the process. A simple, yet important, question to ask is how you will communicate. If your attorney doesn’t answer their calls or call you back it can be frustrating and annoying. However, if their paralegal is available it can be a manageable remedy. Some attorneys email first thing in the morning and late in the evening and have their staff handle issues during the day. Whatever their process is you need to know and understand it prior to moving forward.
  • How quickly can you turn deals over? As we mentioned, time is of the essence in every deal. Even on new deals you are working on you need to see how quickly a title search could be returned or property issue resolved. This speed could dictate if you make an offer and if so, how much. On the deals you have at the bank or with the seller there will always be unexpected issues that demand answers. A good attorney has a reliable staff or a handful of outside contacts they can reach out to get answers to any question you have. Your attorney may be great at the closing table, but you need to get their first.
  • Fees. As you see fees are the last, and least important, item listed. It is not an exaggeration to state that a good attorney is worth whatever they charge. The reality is that attorney fees will not break the bank. They will be similar from attorney to attorney for the most part. Saving a hundred dollars, or two, sounds great but you often get what you pay for. The longer you work together you will get an occasional discount every now and then that evens things out. As long as the fees aren’t outrageous it is not as big of a factor as you may think.

You should view working with your attorney like starting a long-term relationship. Ideally, you are going to close many deals together and work side by side for years to come. Consider this as you find the right attorney for you.