Tips & AdviceHow to Find a Good Real Estate Lawyer

How to Find a Good Real Estate Lawyer

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Purchasing a new property is always a daunting prospect, especially in places with very particular property laws like New York City. Rather than navigating the closing process with only the help of a real estate agent, it may also be worth your while to enlist the aid of a real estate lawyer to ensure you walk away with the best deal possible.

What Is a Real Estate Lawyer?

Unlike a real estate agent, who will assist you with finding and securing the property, a real estate lawyer is generally only brought in once the seller has already accepted your offer. Real estate lawyers assist buyers with the legal aspects of purchasing a property, including drafting and reviewing paperwork, negotiating contracts, and representing their clients during closing. Because practicing real estate lawyers must hold a law degree, you can trust that they have the necessary training to translate all of the legal jargon in your contract and help you understand all of your rights during the transaction. A real estate lawyer will also ensure that you and the seller are not unknowingly violating any local laws.

When Do You Need a Real Estate Lawyer?

In many U.S. states, real estate lawyers are required either by custom or by law to oversee the closing process. Even if you do not live in a so-called “attorney state,” however, it may still behoove you to hire one. This is especially true if you are trying to sell a particularly difficult property, such as a home that has extensive structural damage or is being sold as part of a divorce settlement, and if you are a first-time buyer or purchasing in a new area for the first time. Regardless of your circumstances, knowing that you have an unbiased and well-informed third party looking out for your interests can also provide much-needed peace of mind. 

Where Can I Look for A Real Estate Lawyer?

The best way to find a reputable real estate lawyer is through recommendations from trusted associates. If any of your friends have recently purchased properties, ask them if they had a positive experience working with their real estate lawyer and see if they can put you in touch. Be careful of recommendations made by anyone else involved in the deal, however. Even though your real estate agent is working on your behalf, they also have some of their own interests at stake in the deal and aren’t completely unbiased. You can also reach out to your state’s Bar Association to see which licensed real estate lawyers work in your area.

How Much Does a Real Estate Lawyer Cost?

The cost of a real estate lawyer will depend on the area in which they work and the services that they will be asked to provide. Most will charge a flat fee of several thousand dollars, especially for straightforward deals, while others will charge an hourly rate, usually between $150 and $300 per hour. A real estate lawyer will often pay for themselves in the long run by helping you navigate around unexpected—and potentially very expensive—issues in the buying process.

Tips for Working With Real Estate Lawyers

Even though you most likely won’t need a real estate lawyer’s services until you are closing on a property, be sure to select your ideal candidate beforehand so that you aren’t scrambling to lock someone down at the last minute. When it comes to real estate, time is money, and the last thing you want to do is let negotiations drag on while you search for an attorney. 

When choosing your real estate lawyer, be sure to pick someone who knows the area well. Even if your best friend is the premier real estate lawyer in Chicago, they’re not going to be of much help when it comes to locking down a property in New York City. It is also crucial to make sure that your real estate lawyer is someone you’ll have a harmonious working relationship with. Your lawyer is meant to serve as a resource for you, and you should feel comfortable asking them questions about the aspects of negotiations that confuse you. If your lawyer is so intimidating or standoffish that you find it difficult to have an open dialogue with them, they won’t be able to provide you with the advice you’re after.

To this end, it’s helpful to arrange a consultation with any candidates you are considering to gauge what it’s like to speak with them one-on-one. This will also give you the chance to ask a few questions and vet their credentials. For example, you could ask them about the approaches they’ve taken to resolve issues during past transactions or request that they provide referrals from previous clients. This is also a great opportunity to inquire about their rates and see if they are within your price range. Don’t be afraid to shop around and speak to multiple candidates before you decide who will be the best fit for you and your needs. 

Finally, make sure that the lawyer you choose practices a hands-on approach and will be performing the services you request themselves rather than sending a paralegal to attend to these matters on their behalf. Buying a property is a major decision that will impact your quality of life for years or decades to come, and you deserve to have a real estate lawyer who is just as committed as you are to securing your dream home. 

Sophie McIntosh
Sophie McIntosh
Sophie McIntosh is a Brooklyn-based writer and dramaturg hailing from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Her plays have been produced by Imaginarium Theatre Company, Platform Production Company, and in the Boston Theater Marathon. Check out more of her work at sophiemcintoshwrites.com!

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