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Investment Property: How to Choose a Good Real Estate Attorney

Jay Redding

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Protecting your investment property is a main priority. An investor needs to have a good real estate attorney on his side. But since you are not a lawyer yourself, how do you determine who will be the best choice?

First, as always, ask for references. Veteran investors as well as your investment agent will give the best leads. You will want an attorney whose practice is seventy percent or more real estate work. A general practitioner may say he can do a closing, but that doesn’t mean he has the experience you will need to handle your investments. Of course, an attorney who has been practicing for a long time will know his stuff more than someone who has just finished law school. That is not to say a firm that has seasoned attorneys as well as recent law school grads isn’t a good choice. But, you do want to make sure your contracts are being reviewed by someone who has been practicing for at least a few years.

Ask your prospective attorney if he invests in real estate. If he doesn’t, does he have other clients who are investors? Either way, he is sure to understand not only the market but your perspective. You want an attorney who has a lot of experience handling properties similar to your investment property. But, having a wide range of real estate investors will also give him more expertise. A good attorney will no doubt be involved in the local bar association or some other form of service within the legal community. Any professional who is involved in local associations will know his stuff. Your county bar association can help you locate attorneys as well as tell you if an attorney is in good standing.

Also, choose an attorney you feel comfortable with. If a lawyer doesn’t return your phone calls in a timely fashion, he may feel you are not worth his time. A good attorney will treat his clients with respect regardless of how much money they are spending at the firm. Choosing a self-employed attorney or one that works at a small firm may be a better decision than one working at a big firm. Smaller firms can be more motivated and understand the investor’s concerns better because they are business owners themselves. As well, there will not be layers of senior partners needing to manage the account and overcharge you for services. And, ask your lawyer if he likes to work on creative deals such as 1031 exchanges or double closings. You will want someone with flexibility who is willing to make the deal work for his client.

Once you find that real estate attorney you can trust, treat him with as much respect as you expect. And don’t try to haggle him too much on his fees. Make sure you have budgeted for legal fees in your underwriting of your investment. A good attorney can protect your investments and in turn, your financial future. He is no doubt worth every penny.

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