Many people come to their Realtor with an attorney already on board. They figure the attorney is of no concern to their agent thinking that if they know the attorney or have dealt with them before, that lawyer is the best option. They may think a recommendation from a friend covers all the bases. Besides price, most people haven’t considered the critical factors below about the attorney they hire to successfully close their real estate transaction.
Here’s a Top 10 List of questions you should know the answer to before bringing your attorney on board-
- Does he play well with others? There are real estate attorneys that give their egos priority over their fiduciary responsibility to their clients. These lawyers may decide they don’t like the lawyer on the other side of the transaction and deliberately try to kill your purchase or sale as an assault on that attorney. Your Realtor may have worked patiently and tirelessly to successfully negotiate optimal terms for you thus far only to then work triple-time behind the scenes to keep your purchase or sale together because the attorneys are butting heads. You may know nothing about this unless your sale falls through because of it. You want to work with a lawyer that relates professionally with all parties in the transaction at all times. Otherwise, they are being counter-productive and are doing you (and everyone else involved) a disservice.
- Does she know the TRID lending regulations? There are lending regulations that require a three-day period before closing for the buyer to review all the final numbers compiled by the attorneys. This requires attorneys to be well organized and proactive in compiling the credits, debits, and allocations of taxes, insurance, oil deliveries, etc. earlier than in the past. There are also new forms they need to be familiar with. If your lawyer is not up to speed with the new regulations, your closing can be significantly delayed at the last minute as a result.
- Is he overly chatty or verbose, adding to your bill? I have worked with attorneys that have kept me on the phone for almost half an hour every time they called and then complained about all the extra time they are spending on the case, stating that they will have to bill for it. I’m sure this is not what you want.
- Does he communicate effectively with you, your agent, the lender and the other attorney? There are attorneys that act like it’s beyond their scope of work to communicate effectively with the other parties in the transaction. Some barely respond to calls or emails at all! Communication is a critical component in your purchase and sale because the lender, the two Realtors, and the two attorneys have a huge amount of detail to coordinate in order to keep your sale on track. If any of the players are “missing in action” it prevents the process from progressing efficiently, and critical information can fall through the cracks.
- Does she specialize in real estate? If your attorney focuses more on criminal law, divorce, or other areas besides real estate, you can end up with an attorney that is in court or unavailable when you need them at a critical time.
- Is she familiar with the local regulations and practices? You want to be sure your attorney is knowledgeable about the local area of the home you are buying or selling. The process and attorney responsibilities can vary from county to county. There may also be issues that arise about boundaries, zoning regulations, permits or other things specific to your town that your attorney will need to know about.
- Does she have a paralegal? Many attorneys diversify their workload to include more lucrative endeavors than real estate closings. This is fine for you as long as they have a paralegal and/or partner in her practice to keep everything on track when she is focused elsewhere. Otherwise, you and everyone else involved in the transaction can be stuck ‘dead on the vine’ waiting for a critical response or document.
- Is he efficient? Some attorneys are content with creating delays and taking their time to get things done. Ask any lender or real estate agent what’s important about an attorney, and they will tell you efficiency (second to good communication)! The entire transaction is on the clock from the moment an offer is accepted. The attorney must send and receive the contract in the allotted timeframe and then get it to the lender. They must complete a title search and address questions and concerns in a timely fashion, and they need to prepare all the closing documents on time, or your closing could be postponed.
- Is she versed in your areas of specific concern? If you know your transaction will involve added elements of complexity, you want to be sure your attorney can still handle it with ease. For example, if you are moving out of state, coordinating a purchase and sale or pursuing a short sale, run this past your agent and potential attorney up-front to assess their experience and comfort level.
- Has your agent recommended him or her? Last, but not least, the most thorough insight you can get on your would-be attorney is from your Realtor. Many of the questions above are not ones you can easily get answers to by interviewing the attorney directly or even from a friend who’s used him or her. If your agent hasn’t worked with the lawyer directly, he or she can ask other agents how well that attorney as served his client and worked as a team player for a successful transaction in the past. Your agent’s only interest in the attorney you hire is to get a solid team member on board to help ensure a smooth move for you!
Is there an attorney you are considering that you would like feedback about? Have you had a good or bad experience you would like to share? Is there something you would add to the list above? Your questions and comments are welcome below.