Hiring a good real estate lawyer in many cases can be almost as important as hiring a good REALTOR®; a good real estate lawyer can provide outstanding advice and service on the following (but not limited to) topics on a sale or purchase:
(a). Real Property Reports and Compliance (including dealing with encroachments, encumbrances, permit issues, negotiating with the municipality, application of Statutory Declarations for older but current documents, etc.) and dealing with title insurance (and the risks associated) in lieu of RPR / Compliance
(b). Options for dealing with any contractual breaches committed by yourself or by the other party (i.e. Buyer or Seller) to the property being bought or sold (and advice to help prevent such breaches from occurring)
(c). Review of and advice regarding condominium, commercial, and / or acreage documents (for purchase or sale)
(d). Conveyancing relating to title transfer, mortgage documents, etc.
(e). Advice with other real estate law issues and referral of lawyers outside their specialty (e.g. landlord / tenant, tort, etc.)
Below are important things to look for when selecting a good real estate lawyer:
(1). How available are they? Is there someone at the firm answering phones and is your call returned as soon as possible or will you sometimes have to wait a day or several days for an important response? Availability also includes the lawyer’s office location and availability of parking when you go for an appointment.
(2). Does the lawyer primarily specialize in real estate law and how knowledgeable is the lawyer to handle complex real estate issues? Asking the number of years of experience or size and diversity of client base may help to answer this question if you do not know someone who has worked in the past with this lawyer. You may also want to ask the lawyer for any past client testimonials or referrals they may be willing to provide to help strengthen your decision.
(3). Does the lawyer have supporting conveyance secretaries helping them with day-to-day legal activities? Existence of a strong support staff is generally a good sign because it demonstrates volume of clients and ability of the firm to take on a good volume of new clients without overextension and sacrificing quality or response time.
(4). Does the firm have more than one lawyer working at their office? This is very important because legal issues do not disappear simply because a lawyer is away on sick leave, dealing with important family matters, or on holidays. When a lawyer is looking out for your best interests, it is important that another lawyer be able to step in at a moment’s notice in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
(5). Is the lawyer potentially available by email or by other means after hours or on weekends? Again, in real estate, time is of the essence and legal issues do not disappear simply because it happens to be an evening, a weekend, or a holiday.
(6). Do you understand the law firm’s procedure that will be used to calculate your legal fees that will be owing (i.e. flat rates vs. services; % of value; hourly rate, etc.)?
In summary, it is a big responsibility for Sellers and Buyers to select the best real estate lawyer available. If you do not know of a good real estate lawyer, ask your REALTOR® to provide a referral of a lawyer that has been known to demonstrate good availability, promptness, attention to detail, good dispute resolution skills, and good general knowledge and understanding of real estate law. Selecting a good real estate lawyer will help navigate; avoid; and / or remedy any legal risks and issues.
[Article written and ©2009 by Kelly Grant, M.Eng., ABR, NCSO, P.Eng. - REALTOR® at Maxwell Devonshire Realty in Edmonton, AB]
Disclaimer: for those readers not currently represented by another licensed REALTOR®, to obtain more information on this topic and / or if you are serious about selling or buying in the Greater Edmonton Area, call Kelly at 780-414-6100 (pager) or send Kelly an email to SOLD@KellyGrant.ca to schedule a confidential appointment.