Occasionally, you’ll see some people who will try and do it themselves; they’re usually people who are highly educated and who have done it before. I recently represented a woman who owned an insurance agency and, when she sat down to talk to me, she was answering my questions before I could ask them.
She hired me because she wanted me to back her up, but she was a pro in that she’d bought and sold dozens of homes. However, unless you’ve bought and sold dozens of homes or you’re a professional real estate investor, in New York, you need the guidance of an attorney.
I represent plenty of real estate investors; people who buy distressed homes, who are experienced, but who feel like they need someone to back them up, because they may not understand some of the small details, and some small details can cost them thousands of dollars. Some of them are also their own worst enemies too; for example, if an investor is buying an REO, which is a foreclosed property that the bank now owns and is trying to sell, they should do a title search before making an offer, because REO transaction can be tricky.
When buying any REO or foreclosure, you’re taking a chance; the purchase is subject to a number of wrinkles; there may be a tenant living there, or a building code violation; those can become problems that you the buyer inherit with the house. Generally speaking the Seller, in this case the Bank does not have to clear up any violation or make sure there is no one living in the house. I can’t tell you how many investors go into contract and then hire me, and I have to remind them that they have to clear up a number of problems before they buy the house; and these are professionals; imagine a first-time homebuyer’s dilemma if they buy a property without an attorney. I encourage inexperienced real estate investors to call an attorney who concentrates in Real Estate transactions to get an education, especially when it comes to buying a distressed property.
How to Recognize a Competent Real Estate Lawyer?
In real estate transactional practice, my job is to get my client what they want; if I’m representing the seller, they want a deal to close than get their money; if I’m representing the buyer, they want to close and get their house. I will guide them through the whole process because I want what they want; a done deal.
A prospective client should ask the attorney they consider if they are primarily a real estate attorney and if they say no, that’s not the right person, for the same reason they wouldn’t hire a pediatrician to perform open heart surgery. Hiring a divorce attorney to handle real estate is just a bad idea because, while they might get lucky, when it comes to real issues, you want more than luck; you want them know what they’re doing. When a seller’s attorney doesn’t know how to get a contract out or takes a week to get a contract out, I see a problem. It doesn’t take too long to get a contract done.
It’s important to be efficient, although it must also be done with care. Someone who’s not well versed in real estate will have to take more time and may even have to call and ask someone. It’s best to have an experienced real estate attorney on your side because knowledge generally translates into efficiency.
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