This is the biggest transaction of your life – the purchase or sale of your home — whether it be condo, townhouse, co-op, whatever. You may be feeling a combination of anxiety and excitement at the prospect. You’ve finally found your dream home, or sold your existing home to downsize, relocate or retire to a distant island. The purchase offers have been made, details about what’s included in the sale, be it the washer and dryer, or ceiling fans, have been figured out; inspections are completed. It’s time to “go to contract.”
Once the offer is accepted, real estate attorneys will go to work hammering out the details, make sure the property has clear title (which means there are no liens or outstanding loans), and get signatures on closing documents, and prepare a “rider,” if needed (these are usually minor agreements out of the scope of a traditional standard contract, like the seller will allow the buyer to have another two weeks before moving in, or something like that).
So, like I said, it’s time for the real estate attorneys to get to work. The listing agent, or the buying agent will undoubtedly have recommendations, and so will your neighbors, and so will your banker, home inspector, sister in law, and the guy down the street.
But here’s the thing, you must feel comfortable with the attorney you choose, and not rely on word of mouth, or anyone’s suggestions, as good as they may sound. Here are my top five considerations in your real estate attorney search.
- Contact the local bar association in your area to get the names of nearby lawyers who know neighborhood. Plus, you want someone who you can visit easily.
- Find out what you can about the attorneys. Say you find three. Search the internet for reviews on their law firm, see what profile they have on file, any awards they’ve earned, what field of law they specialize in.
- Take your short list and call their office to make an appointment for a short phone interview, maybe the attorney is even there at the time you call and pick up and speak with you for a few minutes.
- You can ask for references, ideally their last two clients, which is easily obtainable, and who would be able to give a detailed report as the experience would be still fresh in their minds.
- Fees! Make sure you know of what the fees will be. Is there a flat fee for all closing tasks, or is it by the hour? Don’t assume anything.
Bonus tip: No matter how tempting, don’t be your own legal representative. The contracts are difficult to understand, and even your real estate agent shouldn’t be responsible for explaining any part of it. Let the experts do their job, and you will sleep better in your new home for it.
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