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5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

When it comes to buying and selling real estate, there are certain situations where it helps to have a qualified legal professional on your side. If you’re looking to get into real estate investing, attempting to purchase a short sale or foreclosure, or having unexpected complications with a simple transaction, it may be time to hire a real estate attorney. Before you sign on the dotted line, consider asking these five questions to make sure your prospective attorney has the skills and qualifications you need.

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How Long Have You Been Practicing?

One of the most important qualities to look for in a real estate attorney is experience and it’s helpful to know up front how long they’ve been practicing. Generally, the more complicated the transaction is, the more experienced you want your attorney to be. Just keep in mind that you may end up paying more for the services of an attorney who’s been practicing for 15 or 20 years than you would for one who’s two or three years out of law school.

You may also want to ask if they specialize in any particular area of real estate law. It’s also a good idea to find out where they earned their law degree and whether or not it’s an accredited school. If they attended law school in a different state, you should also ask how many years of experience they have practicing law in your state. Real estate laws differ from one state to another so you want to make sure they’re up-to-date on local rules.

Have You Handled Cases Similar to Mine?

5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

Every real estate deal is different and it’s to your advantage to find an attorney who’s experienced in handling situations similar to yours. Choosing an attorney who’s familiar with the type of transaction involved works in your favor, since they already understand the potential problems that can arise and how to head them off.

While you can’t ask for specific details about they’ve handled similar cases, it’s okay to ask a real estate attorney what strategy they would use in your situation. This is also a good way to get a feel for how much the attorney actually knows when it comes to real estate law. Ideally, you want an attorney who can offer you a brief but detailed plan of action, rather than a vague assurance of success.

Related Article: What Kind of Real Estate Agent Do You Need?

What Are Your Fees?

Knowing up front how much an attorney charges for their services can eliminate a lot of unnecessary headaches later on. Depending on the type of case involved, you may be billed on an hourly basis or you may be charged a flat fee. If you’re being billed by the hour, expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $450 per hour, depending on the complexity of the case. You may also have to pay a retainer upfront in order to secure the attorney’s services.

Price is an important consideration when it comes to choosing a real estate attorney but it shouldn’t be the only one. Depending on your situation, it may be worth it to pay a little more to get the outcome you want. Always ask for an estimate and don’t be afraid to negotiate a better price. Keep in mind that when it comes to legal services, you get what you pay for so you need to be careful when weighing cost against quality.

Will Anyone Else Be Working On My Case?

5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Real Estate Attorney

If you’re considering hiring a larger firm to help you buy or sell your house, it’s a good idea to know whether anyone will be working on your case besides your attorney. In some instances, part of the work load may be handed over to paralegals or junior attorneys so you need to be sure that you’re comfortable with who has access to your information.

You should also ask what your options are if you have questions about the case. Specifically, you need to know when and how you can get in touch with your attorney if you need to and who else you can talk to if he or she isn’t available. Communication is key to a good working relationship with your attorney and you need to feel confident that they’ll be able to address your concerns if and when they arise.

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Can You Provide References?

Talking to a real estate attorney firsthand lets you get a feel for their personality and professionalism but you can get additional insight by talking to people they’ve worked with before. If the attorney is willing to provide you with some names of other real estate professionals or former clients, it’s a good indication that he or she is confident about their reputation.

Ultimately, choosing the right real estate attorney comes down to finding someone you’re comfortable with to do the job. Doing some careful research and asking the right questions can ensure that you find the best overall fit.

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Photo credit: ©iStock.com/EHStock, ©iStock.com/shironosov, ©iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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