Choosing the Right Attorney

In the state of Massachusetts, if you are buying real estate you are likely hiring an attorney.  Even if the attorney does not represent you, you are paying a closing attorney when financing the property.  It is very important to hire an attorney to represent you when buying real estate. Standard p&s agreements are relatively basic and the value added by an attorney’s tailored addendum can be great.  Since you will need to pay for your banks attorney, the ideal situation is to have him represent both you and the bank.  An attorney will often give you a sizeable discount on the p&s review work if he is able to also do the bank work.

There are a few things to watch out for when choosing an attorney. Beware of hiring one who charges hourly for a real estate transaction. A real estate purchase is something that can easily be dragged out; and most certainly will be if you are paying by the hour.  It is also important to hire an attorney who specializes in real estate and understands how a real estate transaction works. An inexperienced attorney can hinder your negotiation by focusing on arbitrary details instead of major issues and your actual needs.

Having your attorney do the closing for the bank and simultaneously represent you has other benefits in addition to the fee discount when considering how a transaction works. For example, it is important to do a final walk through just prior to the closing to check on the condition of the house. If there is something wrong, it is vital to have the closing attorney on your side at the closing table. Your agent and attorney could possibly negotiate an escrow hold on some of the proceeds to the seller to ensure the issues get addressed post-closing. Your attorney can even potentially hold off on recording the deed so the seller can’t deposit the check until the issues are resolved.

It is not advisable to use your lender’s recommendation for an attorney when considering the fact that you could potentially want to switch lenders down the road. An attorney recommended by that lender is essentially able to lock you into the relationship with that lender and make it difficult for you to switch. I would boil down the two biggest attributes for an attorney to loyalty and experience. Finding one with these qualities will ensure you have many layers of protection and will have a smooth, successful transaction.

  • Clara Cuevas

    Def! Loyalty and experience!
    Actual needs should be the priority for real estate attorneys so that they can provide the best service to their clients.

  • Felstina

    I am confused.  This article seems to be contradictory.  The majority of the article says you cabn benefit, and its recommended that you use your bank's attorney.  The last paragraph seems to discourage this.  Am I missing something?  What if the lender IS the bank? 

    • Charles Vallis

      It is possible to choose your attorney and request that your lender uses this one for the closing. This helps ensure that your attorney represents you. If you use your loan officer's recommendation the attorney is more likely to lock you in and remain loyal to the lender. I understand how it seems contradictory because it is a subtle difference. In fact you make a good point that there is always the potential for a conflict of interest when the attorney represents both parties. In my experience it is less likely to be an issue as long as you are the one selecting the attorney and he or she is experienced in real estate.