Buying, selling or refinancing a home can be stressful. Purchase agreements and mortgage documents contain legal jargon that’s difficult for most people to understand. When it comes to your home, you want to make sure you’re protected and that you’re not skimming over any fine print or legalese that could have serious ramifications in the long run. You don’t want to make a mistake out of ignorance or be left in the dark about what you’re actually agreeing to.
A real estate lawyer (REL) can help you understand legal documents and make sure you are considering all the legal ramifications along the way. You want to make sure you choose the right Calgary real estate lawyer that has experience with the type of property you’re purchasing and that will be available when you need them.
How to Find a Good Real Estate Lawyer
There are many great lawyers out there in Calgary. Here’s how you can find the right one for you.
- Ask friends and colleagues that you trust for a referral. They’ll let you know who they’ve enjoyed working with and who they haven’t.
- Do some Google searches. A solid online presence, including a website with information about their services and pricing can help you get an idea of their personality and their firm’s offerings.
- Clear explanation of the services offered and fees. Ideally this is on the website so you don’t have to call around, but you will want to be clear on their prices before starting an engagement.
- Check their online reviews. A few bad reviews are inevitable but the majority should be positive.
- Check their expertise and years of experience in real estate law in your province.
- Have a quick chat and make sure you get a good vibe. Easy communication will make a huge difference.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a REL
When it comes to selecting a real estate lawyer, it’s critical to ask the right questions in order to decide which lawyer is the best for you. To begin, find out how long they’ve been practicing real estate law and ask about their pricing model and how much their fees are. Read “What Questions Should I Ask My Real Estate Lawyer?” for more questions you should be asking.
Know Your Budget & Ask About Fees
Real estate lawyers charge different fees and have different pricing models. Some charge by the hour and others charge a flat fee for specific services. There are many things included in their services as mentioned above, but their fees can also include time to speak with other lawyers, real estate agents, banks about mortgage lending and other individuals involved in the sale or refinancing of a home. If a lawyer charges by the hour, that time can add up quickly so it’s important to know upfront what is too much or to be aware of pricing that isn’t transparent.
You can expect to spend more on average for a lawyer when purchasing a home than you would for selling or refinancing. Legal fees for a real estate lawyer in Calgary vary from less than $1,000 to more than $3,000, depending on the value of your home. If you are being charged hourly, you could spend well over $3,000 in some cases. That can be a significant sum of money for the average home buyer. For most home buyers, a flat fee is the best option so you know exactly how much you will have to pay.
Warning Signs You Should Look For
Most lawyers out there do a good job and will be a good fit for your real estate transaction. However, if you end up with a lawyer that you don’t get along with or who doesn’t know what they’re doing, it can end up dragging things out, increasing your costs, or potentially having to find a new lawyer to finish the transaction.
Here are some warning signs to look for that can help you avoid those snags before they happen.
- Poor communication – if you have a hard time getting in touch with a lawyer or they don’t have an easy way to communicate with you, it might be a sign that you’re in for difficult communicating throughout the process.
- No (or poor) online presence or reviews – a website, social profiles and online reviews (with a lot of good reviews) are all helpful to get information on a law firm’s services and pricing, and to read about previous clients’ experiences. If a law firm doesn’t have a website or a presence elsewhere online, it can be hard to know what you’re getting into. Inversely, if they have a lot of bad reviews this is a sign that you could have a poor experience as well. A few negative reviews is often unavoidable, but if they have more bad than good you should probably keep looking.
- Not much experience in real estate, in your city or with your types of property – if a lawyer has little experience in real estate law this should be an immediate red flag. Lawyers with years of experience in real estate law will have dealt with more of those ‘unusual’ situations and will use that experience to help you identify and avoid them. If your property is commercial, multi-family or has special considerations you’ll want to make sure your lawyer is well versed in those, too.
- Talks over you or down to you – legal jargon can be hard to understand but it can be presented and discussed with you in ‘plain English’ so you are clear with the implications. If your potential lawyer doesn’t communicate your documents to you in a way that allows you to understand the agreements you’re signing, the process will be very stressful.
Now that you know what to consider, it’s time to start looking for an experienced real estate lawyer. We have years of experience with the Calgary real estate market and are here to help. Email One80 Law or call us to set up a free consultation today!