Home Buying in 60612>Question Details

Jeff, Home Buyer in Chicago, IL

What is advantage to using an attorney experienced in real estate contracts vs a general lawyer for buying?

Asked by Jeff, Chicago, IL Sun Jan 6, 2008

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Use a real estate attorney. You want an attorney who knows what he or she is doing as opposed to one who is learning what to do. When an attorney messes up, the client suffers.

The information in this answer provided by Attorney Ranj Mohip is general information and is not intended as legal advice, nor does the attorney intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader by answering this question or otherwise contributing as a member of Trulia.com.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 16, 2011

The difference is similar to comparing a general practitioner to a heart surgeon. Which would you choose for a heart transplant?

Best of luck
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2008
My real estate attorney complimented me on "catching" a standard clause that I thought was absurd. (So Jim, I disagree regarding the standard MLS contract.) It was a contingency clause for insurance during the first 5 days. I said, you don't get insurance until after loan approval. My IL neighbors and our two flat in Michigan both required front porch railings installed before issuing the insurance. This is a cost item if the buyer lets this contingency pass and it is not negotiated beforehand or with the home inspection.

Again, I'm agreeing with Elvis (I think I'm tailing him today). In MI our RE attorney charged by the MINUTE for an eviction. We spent thousands of dollars on her. Our IL RE attorney has been the best bargain ever. A flat fee for the entire transaction and all my annoying questions and debating. I paid an extra $50 for a quit claim and have to pay another $50 because the first buyer fell through but I don't have to pay $350 for the first and second buyers even though my attorney is doing almost double the work. I'm pretty sure I have gotten a couple of free notaries out of the deal too.

One of the things I would be concerned about with a general lawyer is turning a mountain into a mole hill.
Good luck,
Web Reference: http://www.Oak-Park-IL.com
2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
Ruthless, Other/Just Looking in 60558
Would you call your lawn guy if your water heater flooded the basement.?

Would you call your plumber if the roof got damaged by a tree.?

Why not.? .. they all have hammers and a wrench --- same goes with attorneys.

Realtors make plenty of mistakes, title companies make even more .... contracts get whited and crossed out all the time with all the parties sitting at the table, and 15 minutes later someone goes brain dead and wants to change it, burn it or sue over it .. it happens every second of everyday.

Always have your own real estate attorney and have him look at everything before, during and after.

If you'll notice, you'll always see a good divorce attorney with a great real estate attorney.!

2 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
As a former real estate paralegal, I can't tell you how many times the attorney on the other side of the transaction had to call OUR attorney for ADVICE when the other side was a) buyer's dad, who is a divorce attorney, i.e, FREE!; b) buyer's brother who does personal injury, but is FREE! c) seller's Uncle Joe. Sure he does mostly tax law, but he offered to do it for FREE!

What is the advantage? You'll have an attorney who won't have to call the other side's attorney for advice.

Cost? $500. Savings? Potentially THOUSANDS.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 7, 2008
Patti Pereyra, Real Estate Pro in Chicago, IL
Jeff - real estate attorneys understand key issues to consumate a real estate transaction and the timing of getting all of the moving parts lined up in order to close - tax proration, title search, surveys, water certifications etc. in addition to the terms and conditions of the actual sales contract.

I had a client who had his family attorney do the transaction - he called me to ask how to calculate the tax proration. This is second nature to the attorney who does real estate law.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
This is a no-brainer. There are two excellent reasons to use a Real Estate attorney in a real estate transaction, over a general attorney, or family friend general attorney (which I know is tempting)

1) RE attorney has an intimate knowledge about how RE transactions work, and the deadlines involved. It is like falling-off-a-bicycle for them, and the general attorney has learning curve to get up to speed, and doesn't have the time to do it. I have seen big time downtown attorneys have circles run around them, by a good RE attorney. Hire a specialist... this is all they do.

2) RE attorneys charge by the transaction. Chicago area, common fee would be approx. somewhere between $350.00 to as high as $1,000.00 (depending on the attorney) flat fee. General attorneys usually charge by the 1/4 hour, or the 1/2 hour, and will charge you for every phone call, every fax, every letter. Sometimes you'll pay as high as several hundred dollars per hour, racking up thousands of dollars in bills.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in 60201
Attorneys specialize in different areas an just like you are not going to see a podiatrist with a heart problem you should not use just any attorney for a real estate transaction. You want to make sure that contract protects your interests, and that an attorney is familiar with what is common and what is not for the industry. I had a lot of deals where the attorneys did not know what their next step should be. I am not sure about Chicago, but in NY seller's attorney writes the contract. Buyer's attorney has to be experienced enough to pick up on anything that may not be in the best interest of their client, but they also need to know that some conditions are standard for this type of contract, and changing them may not be a good idea. Also it is buyer's attorney who is doing most of the work (communication with the lender, title searches, closing schedules, etc..) Little mistakes can be very costly. For example: ordering lean searches for a COOP too early, before approval from the board, may cost a buyer a few hundred dollars if he gets rejected.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
Definitely do NOT use a criminal or divorce lawyer. Your attorney will be in court most of the day and be unaccessible to everyone including yourself.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2008
Fact is, most (many?) general lawyers handle a real estate transaction every now and so may consider themselves "experienced" lawyers even if they don't do this work day in and day out. The term can be a bit of a "red herring."

If you are confident that nothing can or will go wrong on your deal, AND you do not want to ask for advice or guidance AND you make a good selection, a good lawyer is going to be a good lawyer, regardless of his or her focus on a specialty practice area (or if she is a general practitioner).

On the other hand, if you want to have questions answered, or you want someone who is prepared to help meet unforeseen problems and contingencies, you will be better served by someone who has more familiarity and experience in the nuances of the various contracts, ordinances, customs and practices that can vary from community to community.

Going against the main stream on this, I will humbly suggest that ultimately, the level of service (the amount of attention) your lawyer will devote to your transaction should be a greater consideration than the notion of whether your lawyer does other things in addition to practicing real estate law. Sure your lawyer should have core competence, but as I stated at the outset, a great many do.

My practice is devoted (nearly exclusively) to real estate transactions. I deal with "experienced" lawyers all the time. Sadly, some are just "too busy" to answer or return phone calls or follow up on contract matters. Others farm all their work out to secretaries or paralegals and have almost no client contact at all. I'll take an attentive general attorney over an indifferent "expert" any day of the week.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2008
The difference is HUGE!!!! It seems everybody has a relative who is an attorney and anxious to prove their smarts. I'll bet every seasoned real estate professional has at least one horror story of a litigation attorney messing up the transaction between willing buyers & sellers.

Litigation attorneys are in the zero sum business of defeating their opponents at any cost. Real estate attorneys are in the business of protecting their clients interests without alienating the other side and reducing the likelihood of closing.

Greg Zaccagni
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 7, 2008
Hey Ruth, just wanted to clarify what I had stated regarding what the advantages are for hiring a real estate attorney vs. a general lawer. My point was, as in most things hanging on the transaction, there is a cost or expense for this service(contract review) that will be charged to the buyer. The only advantage as far as I can see, would be Jeff's non-real estate attorney would be less expense then a standard RE attorneys fee. Everyone in the string,have given great reasons why you would want to use only a RE attorney, to which I agree with.

FYI, the insurance contingency clause you mentioned, was put into the most recent Multi-board contract to protect home buyers from getting into a situation were they go under contract and beyond the continguency period, to findout that the house is uninsurable (due to prior claims). This also can be a benifit to findout if claims were used to correct defects not disclosed. The contingency does nothing more then give the prospective buyer the opportunity to investigate that the house is insurable and how much obtaining insurance will cost. You realize without homeoweners insurance, a title policy will not be issue and thus the loan will not be funded.(i.e. no sale).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 7, 2008
The only advantage I could see might be the expense/cost to you. If you are using a non- Real Estate attorney to review a standard MLS purchase agreement(which was written by attorneys and approved by the IL BAR) - then you will probably be ok, however you might be at a disadvantage if the sellers attroneys primary field is Real Estate law(they just don't speak the same legalize).
If you are looking at new construction or a purchase that uses a developers contract then I would only recommand a Real Estate Attorney. Those agreements were written by the seller/builder and are created to protect their best interest with respect to IL Real Estate Law. If you need a recommendation for a attorney let me know.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
Hi Jeff,

Very good questions. My experience (16 years) is that is is vital to work with an attorney that specializes in Real Estate transactions. Like any big decision I firmly believe that when you cross the T's and dot I's you will not regret the experience.

Patrick J. Tivnan
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
there are two types of attoneys in a real estate transaction. an expert real estate attorney is a closer from a legal perspective to the real estate transaction. another type of attorney in real estate transactions are litigators; save them for the courtroom.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
If you need surgery, would you go to a general practioner? You need some one with the knowledge and experience to protect your interests.
An attorney charges for their time, including research. A general attorney may have to research some issues that a real estate attorney will already know. If so, that will cost you more.
I personally have seen more hiccups in deals where a buyer used a general attorney, instead of a real estate attorney e.g. lack of familiarity with documents needed for the lender. And if you do have a dispute, I really want the specialist representing me.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 6, 2008
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