Questions To Ask Your Real Estate Attorney

Buying or selling a home is unlike any other transaction you’re likely to encounter unless you own a professional sports franchise or a Fortune 500 business. Not only does it involve complicated contracts, protracted negotiations, and multiple representatives on both sides of the deal, it also invokes complex questions of law, from the title search, title commitment, and insurance process, to tax implications and federal and state real estate law. Having the right representatives can make all the difference in setting your deal up for success from offer all the way through closing. But evaluating those representatives can be difficult, especially if you’re not an experienced real estate negotiator. Understanding what questions to ask your real estate attorney can help you understand the transaction and get to a great result.

Why Do I Need A Real Estate Attorney?

Even the simplest real estate transaction is fraught with the potential for things to go wrong. A real estate attorney is an essential protection against unforeseen difficulties. 

When you agree to purchase or sell your home, one of the agents involved in the deal will generally prepare a form contract.  These contracts usually contain a clause establishing a modification or attorney review period during which either side’s attorney can request and negotiate changes to the contract’s form terms.  

During this period, you’ll have a chance to consult with your attorney regarding the deal’s terms, and gain insight into any contingencies or clauses — including the deadlines you’re facing as part of the escrow process — that you don’t understand. Your attorney represents your interests, and can help to shepherd you through the process in a way that leaves you reassured that you’re being protected at every step of the way. 

Ask Your Attorney About Their Experience

Especially in jurisdictions where attorneys are commonly involved in residential real estate transactions, it’s common for attorneys who don’t specialize in real estate to have some part of a generalized practice dedicated to real estate deals. Asking your attorney about their experience, including the number of real estate deals they’ve handled and common complications they’ve faced, is a great way to understand whether your attorney is a specialist who will have the right experience to protect you if an unusual situation arises. After all, you want to engage someone who won’t be surprised even if a rare or uncommon contingency is proposed.

As part of this process, make sure to ask your attorney about their specific experience with situations like yours. If you’re a purchaser of residential real estate, you’ll want to understand your attorney’s specific familiarity representing homebuyers, as a lawyer who has only represented sellers may not always know what to ask for. Conversely, an attorney who has only represented buyers may not understand the pressures facing homesellers, and may be too inclined to give in to a buyer’s requests. Familiarity with your specific situation can help your attorney put your mind at ease and make sure you’re getting the most favorable outcome possible. 

Ask Who Will Be Involved In Your Case

Most attorneys have other professionals staffing their cases, including more junior attorneys, paralegals, and administrative staff. These professionals are generally experienced and qualified, but it can be confusing to feel as though your transaction has been handed off to someone without a thorough explanation of how the staffing works and when the attorney you hired will step in to handle part of your deal. Getting an understanding up front regarding how a firm manages staffing, and who you’ll be talking to with any questions or concerns, can help to avoid frustration later in the process. 

Ask About How Your Attorney Will Be Paid

Understanding your attorney’s fee structure up front is an absolutely essential part of hiring an attorney. Many attorneys charge an hourly rate, meaning that time spent answering questions or offering general information can really add up. However, especially in jurisdictions like Illinois, where attorney involvement is standard in real estate deals, attorneys often offer a flat-fee arrangement where you know what you’ll be paying up front. Whatever their pricing model, your attorney should be up-front about how all fees and costs will be charged. If a lawyer hedges or obfuscates when explaining their cost and charging practices, that’s a good sign to look elsewhere for representation.

Ask For References 

Like every part of your home transaction, your attorney is an investment, and doing your due diligence is a must. Asking for references, seeking out reviews, or consulting with your real estate agent or other professionals involved in your deal can help you understand what your attorney brings to the table and how they will be able to protect your interests. Don’t be afraid to ask your attorney if there are former clients or other references you can contact to get a sense of their responsiveness, workflows, and general demeanor. Any experienced attorney should be able to provide these references without hesitation. 

Learn More From Your Trusted Title Insurance Company

Have more questions about the escrow and closing process? Let us know! Protecting your interests and assets during a home purchase or sale may be the most important thing you’ll ever do — and you don’t have to navigate the ins and outs of title insurance or closing alone. If you have questions about escrow, or about what title insurance can do to protect you, what it involves, or how to get it, Landtrust Title Services can help. Please contact us today at [email protected] or by phone at 312.528.9210 to get answers to all of your questions.

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