Real Estate Attorneys:
Not all real estate attorneys are competent, let alone good. And its important to
find one who will help, rather than hinder the deal. Finding a good real estate attorney
is like finding a good broker. First, you should ask your broker and friends for
recommendations. You want someone experienced, someone who has handled a minimum of fifty
closings within the past three years. After you get several names, call them up and ask
them how much they charge and what they will do for that fee. Dont be embarrassed to
ask about fees. Its crucial that you know how much youre getting for your
Some attorneys (especially those in medium or large law firms) charge by the hour. Others
(especially solo practitioners) charge a flat fee. Try to find someone who will charge you
a flat fee for his or her time. That way if there is a problem with the closing, you
wont be charged for all those extra hours.
Looking solely at how much attorneys charge for their services is not necessarily the best
way to choose your attorney. For this, the biggest investment of your life, ask yourself
if you feel comfortable telling this person all the intimate details of your financial
life. Its vital that you feel comfortable with, and perhaps even a bit close to,
If a deal is really complicated, you will almost certainly need an attorney. Sam once
worked on a house closing that seemed pretty ordinary until he found out there were ten
lenders. He had to negotiate a separate deal with each lender until they were all
satisfied. The extremely complicated closing took ten hours. Some at the closing called it
the "hour per lender" deal.
Once you hire the attorney, the general idea is to let him or her do the job. If the
attorney advises you on certain points, believe him or her. If he or she tells you to do
something, do it. The attorney knows the ins and outs of real law much better than you do.
Note: Hiring a real estate lawyer is not the same thing as having your
Uncle Harry, the tax attorney, do your real estate closing. Real estate law is specialized
and while Uncle Harry may be a whiz at writing wills, or leasing airplanes, or finding
creative places to put your money, he may help you get nailed to the wall in two minutes
if he doesn't truly understand the finer points of real estate law.
This Homebuyers Tip was excerpted from:
100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask, by Ilyce R. Glink, Random House,
1994. ISBN 0812922382