Selecting a DuPage County Real Estate Attorney
Five Traits To Look For In A Real Estate Attorney
When buying or selling real estate in Illinois—whether it’s a simple residential closing or a complex commercial transaction—it’s important to have a good real estate attorney on the team. That piece of advice might be common sense as far as it goes, but what does it actually mean? What defines “good”? What are the specific characteristics that one should look for when trying to find a quality real estate attorney?
Here are five traits that every quality real estate attorney should have in order to service their clients to the fullest extent possible:
- Experienced—Most Buyers and Sellers only conduct a real estate transaction a small handful of times in their lives—and of course for first time home buyers, their experience is non-existent. Even some seasoned realtors might end up closing on just a few dozen properties during the course of a few years.
The ideal real estate attorney, on the other hand, has conducted literally hundreds of real estate closings. As a result, experienced real estate attorneys have the ability to draw from a large sample size. Experienced attorneys understand how the form legal contracts have changed over the course of years, and also understand why certain language and legal provisions in the current contract exist. The large sample size also enables an experienced real estate attorney to give their clients an accurate view of which legal modification terms, repair requests, and contingency extensions are customary and normal, versus which ones might be highly unusual. Lastly, an experienced real estate attorney can draw on their knowledge to solve problems that would otherwise threaten to terminate a transaction. If an attorney has seen hundreds of real estate closing before, chances are that the particular problem cropping up in a current transaction has also happened in the past. The more transactions the attorney has seen, the more likely it is that the attorney will either be able to avoid a problem before it begins, or be able to suggest a legal solution to solve a problem once it rears its head.
- Focused—Although past experience is important, it’s also important that the attorney has a significant percentage of their current practice focused on real estate transactional work. Particularly in residential real estate transactions where most attorneys charge a flat rate, the amount of fees the attorney earns is low relative to other types of legal matters like litigation files. Attorneys are business people driven by a profit motive just like other professionals. If an attorney does not have a large focus on real estate transactional work, there is a risk that an attorney may come to view their real estate file as an afterthought and not give it the attention that it deserves. Attorneys who make real estate transactional work their primary focus on the other hand, have every incentive to make each real estate file a priority, as their business model relies on repeat referrals from Buyers, Sellers, and Realtors.
- Educator—Particularly for residential Buyers and Sellers, real estate transactions can often be an emotional and frustrating experience. Often times the best antidote for anxiety is knowledge and understanding, and having a real estate attorney who has a teacher’s heart can go a long way in allaying the concerns of uncertain clients. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes Buyers and Sellers are unaware of the several steps and deadlines that need to be met prior to a successful closing. An attorney that educates clients about these steps is one that will maximize the likelihood of a successful closing.
- Communicator—Although being willing to educate clients about the real estate transaction generally, it’s also important for real estate attorneys to be good communicators with the other participants in the transaction—including lenders, realtors, and the opposing attorney. Real estate transactions have several important deadlines that must be met, and it is important that attorneys effectively communicate the need for extensions or—if necessary—the need to exercise a contingency to terminate the transaction. In addition, during the attorney review and diligence inspection phase of the transaction, deftly (but accurately) communicating the client’s desires can often times mean the difference between a successful closing versus a falling out between the parties. Even with all of the real estate knowledge in the world at their disposal, an attorney lacking the communication skills to deliver their client’s message in a timely, accurate, and tactful manner can risk jeopardizing an otherwise viable transaction.
- Collaborator—The best real estate attorneys have the temperament and mindset of a collaborator and mediator, not one of a litigator. Many attorneys are temperamentally geared towards gaining leverage over an opposing side in order to “win” a legal confrontation. However, once a purchase price is agreed upon and a real estate contract is signed, the primary focus should be collaboration and finding ways to create a “win-win” transaction for all parties. Even when the Buyers and Sellers might seem to be at odds, a good real estate attorney will encourage the parties to take the long-term view and give the transaction an opportunity to close. Ultimately, a good real estate attorney should be more like a dolphin, and not like a shark.
For the parties involved, real estate transactions can represent an important step in their life or
business and can often be full of emotional and financial anxiety. One of the best things a Buyer or Seller can do for themselves is to hire an excellent real estate attorney to help them through the process. If the attorney being considered for the transaction possesses all of the characteristics outlined above, the transaction will have the maximum chance possible of coming to a successful closing from a legal perspective.
Larry was an attorney in our office until December 2018.
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