Whether you are buying your first house, looking to move up, or even downsize, choosing the right real estate attorney can be both challenging and time consuming. However, it can often be overlooked in all the hubbub of the home buying process. Below is a list of key things to keep in mind in order to make sure you are choosing the right real estate attorney for you.
1) Experience. Many would argue this is the most important factor. How many real estate transactions does this firm average in a month? A year? Who else, other than your attorney, is in the office that you might be working with (assistants, other lawyers), and what is their experience?
2) Focus. Your Real Estate Attorney should focus chiefly on residential real estate. Try to find someone who spends at least 90% of their time working in the field of residential real estate, over commercial.
3) Availability. Your Attorney, and their offices should be available to you when you have questions or concerns, and should respond to your inquiries in a timely manner. Before signing on to work with them, make sure to make your expectations in regards to availability clear. They should also make themselves available for the signing of your closing documents.
4) Affiliation. Your Attorney should be affiliated and registered with your mortgage lender, or bank.
5) Good Standing. They should currently be in good standing with the Law Society of Upper Canada. If you are unsure, you can always contact the society directly to check, or check their directory.
6) Put it in writing. Just like every other document you will sign, or read when buying a house, this is no different. Make sure that your attorney gives you a written quote for your real estate deal, which includes any additional fees that may arise.
7) Filing online. Since the majority (over 90 %!) of real estate transactions are closed electronically, ensure that your attorney has been licensed by the Ontario Government (or the provincial government in the province in which you will be purchasing) to close your transaction electronically.
8) Document storage. Speaking of electronics, your Attorney should store all documents from your transaction electronically. By doing so, they ensure that your documents will never be shredded or lost, and will be available to you should you ever need them in the future.
9) Title insurance. Make sure that your Attorney has the ability to obtain and arrange title insurance for the transaction. You should also ensure the cost for doing so is included in their fees.
While this list is long, one thing that was intentionally left off is price. It can be tempting to go with the lawyer who quotes the lowest rates. The home buying experience can be expensive, and you may be tempted to save money where you can. If you focus on price, it can be easy to put on blinders to other, more relevant factors, and that can lead to legal ramifications for yourself later down the line. Price should only be a deciding factor when all other factors are equal, and price is the only differentiating factor.