Very few among us are going to be comfortable deciphering all the complex terminology and clauses in the paperwork needed to complete a home purchase. You are much better off leaving the legal heavy lifting to someone who does it on a regular basis.
Here are a few tips for a happy lawyer-client relationship during your home purchase.
Most of what an attorney helps with comes later in the home buying process, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to procrastinate. Start the process of finding a lawyer when you first start looking at homes.
Get a good referral
Friends, family, co-workers or the state or national bar associations are good places to get leads on attorneys. It’s not a terrible idea to get a recommendation from your real estate agent, but the best practice is to research a few other candidates too. Avoid getting a referral from the seller or the seller’s agent since this could mean an attorney motivated to “push through” a deal.
Do some research
Once you have a list of 3-5 potential attorneys, start doing some homework online. Perform a search engine query for the lawyers’ name and try to locate their personal website/blog, reviews and relevant media mentions of them. Keep an eye out for anything that raises a red flag about their integrity or customer service.
Talking with a few candidates on the phone or in person will not only give you some practical information about their services, but it will also give you an idea for what kind of rapport you have with each of them. In your interview, be sure to ask about:
- A fee schedule and list of services they intend to provide. Average total fees are in the neighborhood of $500-750, but they can be more or less depending on the area and the complexity of the transaction.
- The number of buyer real estate transactions they’ve closed in the past year and in their career.
- The names of other lawyers or staff you’ll be dealing with during the process. Ideally you will only need to work with one person.
- Any potential conflicts of interest they might have.
- A list of references.
- Any questions or concerns you have about the process. You don’t necessarily need to have all these issues addressed immediately, but it helps to get a sense for how well the attorney will be able to explain things to you throughout the process.
Pick someone close
While the lawyer doesn’t need to live right next door to you, hiring someone familiar with the ins and outs of real estate law in your area only makes good sense.