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  • Kathleen Tirelli

Ten Things to Look For In a Real Estate Attorney


You need to get answers when you want them. It is so important that you can connect with your attorney when you need to. So many times, you get voicemail, or a secretary telling you the attorney is “out of the office” and this can be very frustrating for clients when their messages go unanswered. It is best to get an attorney that is not afraid or reluctant to communicate directly with their clients, and to make it a priority to be there for you.

Knowledge/Experience In Real Estate Transactions

The worst thing is to hire an attorney who does not know real estate simply because he/she is a family member, or a friend and will take care of you for free or a greatly reduced rate. This usually tends to be a big mistake. Real Estate may seem simple to the lay person, but there are so many nuances, accepted procedures and terms of art that a real estate practitioner knows that will be used to make the transaction go smoothly and ride seamlessly over those bumps in the road that inevitably come up. It is also helpful to hire an attorney that is well versed in the local procedures in your area. A Manhattan or White Plains real estate attorney generally handles real estate transactions quite differently than a Suffolk County attorney, and this can cause many rifts in the process as you proceed. It is best to stick with an attorney that is comfortable and familiar with the local practices in your area.

Familiarity in The Local Market

The best real estate attorneys know and are familiar with the local market conditions, and can add another layer of comfort and certainty to your decisions when you are working with your realtor and your mortgage lender. When your attorney is versed in the local market, bouncing questions and ideas off of them will be much more fruitful while adding much needed peace of mind for you.

Technology Focused

Let’s face it – the world is getting much smaller, and increasingly fast paced. You need to find a lawyer that wants to keep up with trending and emerging technology to get your deal done quicker and more efficiently. Technology today allows attorneys and clients to interact much more frequently, without the unnecessary time-wasting tasks of trying to schedule an in-person meeting at a mutually convenient time. These days, if you can get in front of your computer, you are ready to go to a meeting, sign contracts, and submit necessary documents to your real estate team.

Existing network of real estate professionals to work with

Nobody works in a vacuum. We all need other professionals within our practice area to get things done, and real estate transactions are no exception. Its best to find an attorney that has a ready and competent network of real estate professionals, such as title companies, land surveyors, expeditors and lenders with which to recommend and work with.

Good rapport with realtors and other attorneys

Since real estate attorneys need to effectively communicate and trade information with other professionals involved in the transaction, it is really important that they have a willingness to work with and have a good relationship with those players. A good real estate attorney will view the realtors involved as an integral part of the team, and necessary to the smooth flow of the transaction. Likewise, the same goes for working with mortgage lenders and title representatives. A good rapport with these individuals will certainly make it easier to get the information needed to keep everything moving along.

Timeliness – ability to meet and exceed deadlines

Nobody likes an attorney that consistently runs late or does not meet necessary deadlines and due dates. These qualities are so important when buying or selling a home, when timeliness is crucial. Missing deadlines can wreak havoc in the contractual relationship between the buyer and seller, as well as with a buyer’s mortgage timeframes. Make sure your real estate attorney prioritizes timeliness so that you can feel confident and comfortable that you chose the right representative.

Easy to communicate with – actively listens to you

Since your attorney is there to carry out your wishes, within the confines of the law, it is very important that he/she actually knows what you want. This is only accomplished by effective and direct communication. You want to be able to speak directly with your attorney when you have a question or issues arise. It can be very frustrating to have to funnel your message through a receptionist, and then not receive a direct response from your attorney. Make sure to get a feel of how accessible your attorney will be to you and to your other representatives, ie., your listing/selling agent, mortgage broker, etc.

Reasonable and up-front fee schedule

When it comes to fees, nobody likes surprises. Make sure to get your fee arrangement from your attorney up front and included in your engagement letter when first retaining the services of the attorney. Also, this way you will be able to detect if the fee quoted is reasonable and customary for your area.

Recommendations from past clients, other professionals, community

Lastly, check around to see if anyone you know has used the attorney you are considering and what their thoughts are of the attorney’s work ethic. Look for any on-line reviews from different sources such as websites, Facebook, Avvo, or Alignable, etc. Your realtors may also have knowledge of the particular attorney’s business reputation. Reviews are a great source of information and can assist you tremendously in selecting a great real estate attorney.


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