Real estate transactions are typically the largest transaction of a person's life. We advise our clients to make sure that they choose the best attorney possible to represent them whether they are buying or selling. Often, people choose their attorney based on the fee or another superfluous reason. They might choose a friend of the family who will give them a "break," a free lawyer provided by their employer or union, or just the firm that quoted them the lowest fee. And for a small "savings," or because they felt obligated to use their uncle or family friend, they can lose money, the house of their dreams, or both.
Case in point: recently, a listing of mine got an acceptable offer from a local couple buying their first house. I noticed on the memo of agreement (the document brokers send to the lawyers that outlines the terms of the proposed deal) that they were being represented by a law firm that was not local and did not appear to practice real estate. I was assured by the other agent that the lawyer was a family friend and would take care of their client well.
30 days later, I had to tell that agent that the seller had elected to go with another offer. How could this happen? That couple's lawyer kept haggling with my client's attorney over every term and clause on the contract. Because the contract remained unsigned, the house remained for sale and another higher bid came in that the seller chose to engage. Contracts went out to the new buyer, who signed promptly and got the house.
On another occasion, a seller client told me they wanted to use a lawyer in another county. With an acceptable offer on the table, their lawyer did not send out contracts for 3 weeks. The buyer's agent called me to ask about the delay, and I was unable to reach the attorney on our side. He did not use email and his office always had an old answering machine pick up. The buyers got frustrated and rescinded their offer. When I finally reached our lawyer, he defiantly told me that he was awaiting a return phone call from the other lawyer about some arcane detail. Rather than make another follow up call for the answer, he waited 3 weeks and did nothing, costing the buyer.
Those sellers did sell eventually, for over $30,000 less to another buyer. And they used another attorney that time. Using the wrong attorney cost them $30,000 and lots of frustration.
I could go on, but the point should be clear. Real estate mistakes can be incredibly expensive, and who you use for legal representation is crucial. They should count real estate as one of their specialties, they should be local or at least understand local practices, and they should have mobile phone and email access. And if their fee is a little higher than another attorney's fee, don't count them out. With stakes this high, a good attorney is worth every cent and more.