Q. I am being relocated. How much notice will I have before the closing?
A. Generally, you will have at least a week’s notice. However, in many cases, once a file is cleared for closing, all parties try to close as soon as possible. Giving your attorney a power of attorney may help you avoid having to travel to the closing. A power of attorney is simply a form in which you designate someone to act on your behalf and with the legal authority as if you yourself were present. By giving a power of attorney, the person you designate could handle all of your closing obligations. I have used powers of attorneys for many years to help international clients sell their properties without having to spend thousands on airline tickets. Many clients are thrilled when they receive a bank wire after the closing and they are able to transfer the property without the stress and aggravation many usually face.
Q. I don’t have an attorney. Should I choose someone my Realtor recommended?
A. Only if they are good! If you are unsure, call and ask to speak to them. Do they get on the phone immediately or if out of the office do they call you back within a reasonable time (a few hours)? More importantly, do they take at least ten minutes to explain the process to you and answer your questions? If they don’t answer your questions and patiently speak to you when you are considering them, they are not likely to be accessible to you after you select them.
We are all busy, but ignoring clients is the number one complaint most individuals have about their attorney. Many attorneys have no special skills and compete with other attorneys in the same field on price. Because they have agreed to a ridiculously low price, they cannot spend the proper amount of time necessary to do a great job. Life is too short. If you call and speak to an attorney, and find that he or she is not responsive and appears to be too busy to address your legitimate concerns, go find an attorney you can work with.
Q. It’s just a real estate closing? Aren’t all attorneys the same?
A. That is true. A real estate closing is not like discovering the genetic code to cure cancer. But, if you put down a deposit of $200,000 on a $2,000,000 condominium, do you care if you lose it? If you do, you should hire a real estate attorney with years of experience, the social skills to patiently explain everything to you and to listen when you speak to understand your goals and desires.
There is a huge difference between the criminal attorney on the corner that has done 100 real estate deals and a real estate attorney that has done over 1,000, 2,000 or 5,000 closings, who has a practice that is focused on real estate and has systems and procedures in place to ensure that no deadline ever approaches where your down payment becomes non-refundable, unless you have achieved every obligation and are ready to close.
If you select an attorney based on price, you might just find that the lowest price attorney was actually the most expensive when the down payment is lost.
Q. I am buying a coop. Can I rent it out?
A. It depends. This is where due diligence comes in. An attorney should review Board Minutes, financials, the Proprietary Lease, Pet Policies and Sublet Policies, if any, to determine that your intended use is permitted. This review will take several hours at a minimum and is another reason you don’t want the lowest priced attorney. Not doing this review could expose you costly surprises after you purchase your apartment and realize that things are different from what you were initially told.
Q. What is the best thing I can do before I sign a contract?
A. Select an attorney that you can work with. You should be able to speak to your attorney. The attorney you choose should be accessible during normal hours. It is not reasonable to expect the attorney to answer every telephone call or text, but you will know a responsive person from one that ignores you. An attorney that communicates with you and your Realtor will simplify even the most complex transaction.
Q. What if I have questions that are not answered here?
A. Simply call and ask. We believe that attorneys should communicate with their clients. So, when we have inquiries from people regarding the general process, or specifically about their situation, we are happy to spend a few minutes getting to know you and your specific needs. This is probably the best advice we can give. Speak to everyone you are thinking about working with. Anyone that is too busy to speak with you before you hire them, or that is distracted by other things, will probably not change after you hire them!