Choosing among real estate lawyers
The choice of your real estate attorney is probably the single most important crew decision you’ll need to make when you go to buy a house for investment purposes. Your real estate lawyer does not do a perfunctory job. While it might appear this way to the untrained eye, a good attorney will save your from financial ruin. Real estate attorneys, in my opinion, earn their money when things go to Hell in the purchase or sale process, and all parties are losing their minds, going a bit crazy. If you chose a good attorney, you’ll know it. He/she will be the calm voice of reason in the room. The one that knows how to compromise easily – but the one that also fights like a pit bull for your interests. The one that knows real estate law without having to refer back to the books. Oh – and they will also have a knack for explaining complicated legal matters very matter-of-factly, so easily, anyone can understand them.
On more occasions than I would like to admit, my real estate attorney has bailed me out – many times at a closing. They really earned their real estate salary… Some unresolved issue comes up and – wham – both buyer and seller can’t agree. Notorious are disputes arising from pre-closing house walk-throughs. A leak is discovered, a window broken, an appliance not working. Your attorney can usually fix the situation with a simple negotiation with the other attorney. (For example, when an appliance isn’t working prior to closing, leaving a certain amount in escrow until the seller fixes the problem.)
But then there are the major issues – things like title issues and liens that the seller may not have even known about. Many times your attorney (when you’re the buyer) will have to negotiate with the seller’s attorney as well as the title company on how to resolve lien issues. Other times, he’ll have to do further research to see how to correct a problem…all while the clock is ticking to get to a closing date…which all parties are over-anxious to have happen.
The selection process
Selecting your attorney is not simple. Many times, it is a process of trial and error until you find the “right” one. Basically, you’ll want someone that really listens to you. And gets back to you fast. These two things are not to be taken lightly – or for granted. You’d be amazed how many real estate attorneys are what I call “overbooked.” There are periods where they simply take on too much work, have too many clients to represent, and therefore do not give each client their proper representation. Certainly, you can winnow the field down by getting referrals from personal friends, family and most importantly – your real estate agent. They should each suggest several names. Usually, one or two real estate attorneys in any given geographical area tend to pop up over and over again as the “best” in their area.
Evaluating their reputation
There’s one real estate attorney in my area that has a reputation as a “deal killer,” while another one has a reputation for being a deal “problem solver.” Some attorneys are more prickly than other, while certain others are more easy-going. Obviously you’ll want to find the one that works well with your personality. After you’ve used one once or twice, you’ll know if they are a “keeper.” If so, consider yourself lucky – and make that attorney an integral part of your investment property acquisition team.
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