Finding a real estate lawyer can be a challenge for the new investor. If you are serious about this business then your team needs an attorney that understands real estate law. The old family retainer just won’t cut it. I’ve spoken with many attorneys and have found that most are not themselves real estate investors, nor are they familiar with creative real estate investments. I want an lawyer that will protect me, but just as important, I want one to advise me. There is always more than one way to complete a transaction, so it is good to have wise counsel. Should I owner finance with a mortgage and note? Am I better with a Wrap or an Agreement for Deed? Should I use an individual or corporate trustee? The answers to these and other questions can affect your profits, security, privacy and asset protection.
I’m not saying they should run your business; that’s your job, but your attorney should be someone with whom you can discuss options. A good real estate lawyer is one who advises you of the risks, suggests alternative ways of doing a transaction and charges a reasonable fee for their services.
One of the best ways to find a good real estate attorney is to ask other investors in your area who they use. Many are members of local real estate investor associations. I hate hearing the words “you can’t” from almost anyone. I prefer to know the answer to the question, “How can I?” Real estate brokers and agents can also be a a source of referrals, one word of caution is that you still have to interview the attorney because realtors tend to do fairly straight-forward transaction rather than the more creative transactions of the transaction engineering investor.
Once you have a referral or two you might ask the following questions:
- How many transactions have you closed in a Land Trust?
- Do you own rental or other investment property?
- How many closings do you do per year?
- What kind of non-standard or creative transactions have you done recently?
- Have you done any evictions? Foreclosures? Condo conversions?
- Can you explain to me the following concepts: lease/option, wraparound mortgage, installment land contract, agreement for deed, all inclusive trust deed?
I hope this can get you started. Look out for future posts on Building Your Real Estate Investing Team.