The best investors surround themselves with the best team. One of the most important members of your team is your attorney. Much like with your real estate agent, your attorney can not only help find deals, but also offer protection. A good attorney is essential, regardless if you are just starting, or are already established in the business. There are many qualified attorneys you can use, but you need to find the best real estate attorney. Never make a move in real estate unless you have the backing of an attorney that knows the business. Treat your search process as you would with anyone else on your team. Ask questions until you are comfortable with the answers. To find out if your attorney is a good fit, here are some questions you should ask:
Are you a real estate attorney?
Working with a great trial lawyer won’t do you much good in the real estate business. Most attorneys are knowledgeable in all areas of the law, but focus on one or two specific practices. If your attorney is skilled in divorce mediation, they may not be up to date on changes in real estate law. It is important to find out if real estate is something that they focus on. Often times this means having a staff of real estate paralegals ready to handle title searches and other issues that pop up. A great attorney that doesn’t focus on real estate may not have the time or passion to help when you need it. By having a true real estate friendly attorney, they will be able to help with issues on your contract, title and even loan underwriting. Don’t be afraid to ask how many years of real estate experience they have and how much of their business is dedicated to real estate. The ones that get upset and act offended should be taken off your list of potential suitors. Solid real estate attorneys know how to answer this, and will make you feel comfortable from the beginning.
Do you handle other investors as clients?
Real estate investment deals are often much different than traditional purchases. Between short sales and foreclosures, many investment deals can be time consuming and difficult to deal with. You need an attorney that knows how investors work in real estate. This could be changing the contract to offer protection or working with lenders to push the deal forward. As an extra bonus, your attorney may be able to put you in contact with fellow investors in your area. You can never have enough contacts. By having a mutual attorney, you can hit the ground running. In time, an attorney that works with investors can be a good source for deals directly as well. If they have a large investor portfolio, you should feel confident that they know the process and what to expect. Investment deals can be a handful. A good attorney can make it as smooth as possible for you.
How available are they when you need them?
There are many instances in the business when a deal is time sensitive and needs immediate attention. If you can’t get in touch with your attorney or they won’t return your call, you will have a problem. You can expect them to drop what they are doing, but it isn’t unreasonable to get back to you in 24 hours. With all the different forms of technology available, getting in touch with someone is as easy as ever. One of the reasons you want a dedicated real estate attorney is for the mini emergencies that pop up. If your attorney is constantly in court, you will only get them first thing in the morning or after hours. Truth be told, most of the work on a deal is done by the paralegals. The attorney only steps in when they are really needed or closer to closing. They still need to get back to you in a reasonable amount of time. If your attorney has a tough time answering this question, they may have a tough time getting back to you.
What are your fees?
To many new investors, this is the most important question. It is last on this list because it shouldn’t be that important to you. Money is money, regardless of who you are. However, there are times in business when money should not be the most important thing. In most cases, the attorney fees will be within 10 percent of everyone else in the business. By getting caught up in saving money, you could miss the big picture. In a $100,000 purchase, using the attorney that can save you $500 doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is far more important that they know real estate, work with investors and are there when you need them. There are plenty of ways to save money in a real estate transaction. Using the least expensive attorney should not be one of them.
You may not talk to your attorney frequently during a transaction, but their importance cannot be understated. What they offer is protection and guidance throughout the process, and you can’t put a price on that. You may talk to a dozen attorneys before you find someone you are comfortable with. This is an important part of the process and growing your business. Don’t just use the first attorney you speak with; use the right one for your business.