You have found the perfect apartment, your offer has been accepted and it’s time to provide your attorney’s information. Who should you hire and what should you ask? I spoke with Jerry Feeney, New York City real estate attorney, who focused in on seven questions buyers should consider when choosing their legal representation. Here are his suggestions along with my afterthoughts.
#1) “How many transactions have you successfully closed?” You will want to make sure your attorney has the necessary experience to best represent you. Are they familiar with co-op transactions? Have they dealt with condominium deals? How long have they been practicing? Find out if they have experience with homes (or the building) similar to the one you are purchasing.
#2) “Do you practice in other areas or just real estate?” This is an excellent question. I often work with buyers who consider hiring a friend who is well-versed in a different field of law. This is an absolute ‘no-no’ in my book. A real estate attorney should practice just that – real estate. While they may practice (and have expertise) in other areas of law, simply be sure real estate is at the forefront. There are too many complications that can occur in the transaction process, and you will want to make sure there is an expert on your side. Don’t cut corners with the hiring of your attorney.
#3) “Will I be dealing with you, or do you pass me off to a paralegal?” Communication is key in any relationship. If problems arise or you have questions that need to be answered, find out who your point of communication will be. Paralegals can certainly be wonderful, but you don’t want to be in a situation where you are rarely able to speak with the person you have hired.
#4) “Will you communicate using my preferred method of communication? E.g. if I like to text, will you text back?” Are you someone who prefers a phone call to exchange information? Perhaps email is the easiest way to get to you? Whatever your desire, make sure your attorney is on the same page. It also might help to find out if your calls, texts or emails will be returned within a twenty-four hour period.
#5) “Do you have time to take on this transaction?” A busy attorney can be a good attorney. One who is missing in action, however, is not. Ask what the office’s current workload is and whether they truly have the time to best represent you.
#6) “What is your due diligence program?” Plain and simple, inquire as to how your representation performs a thorough investigation of your purchase --- the building, the financials, the board minutes, the apartment, etc… The due diligence process should take about 1-2 weeks at the most.
#7) “What do you charge if the deal does not close?” Of course, first ask what the attorney’s rate is. Some charge by the hour while others will offer a flat fee for their services. As New York City deals can be quite complicated, prepare yourself by inquiring about what charges you will be responsible for if the transaction falls through. Nobody wants to experience a co-op board turndown or a mortgage denial, but these things do happen so make sure you are a step ahead, just in case.
Aligning yourself with a knowledgeable, trustworthy attorney is an extremely important aspect of purchasing an apartment in New York City. Ask the right questions, be clear about your needs, and if possible, decide on your representation before you place an offer so you’re ready to go when it’s accepted!
Need help with purchasing or selling an apartment? Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions - or call me at 917-929-5545.