8 questions to ask a real estate lawyer

What questions should you ask a real estate lawyer when you first meet? These eight questions will help guide your initial conversation.

evident Editorial Team
November 28, 2023
Real estate home

If you are looking for a real estate lawyer, you’ll want to get answers to several important questions to evaluate whether the attorney you speak with is a good fit for you. Price is always a key consideration, but you should consider a variety of other factors as well, including the real estate attorney’s experience level and areas of expertise.

Here’s a checklist of the questions to ask a real estate attorney, which we’ll explain in more detail below. (And if your issue is specific to foreclosure, you can check out our list of questions to ask a foreclosure lawyer here, and find out how much a foreclosure lawyer costs).

Key Takeaways

Is real estate law your primary focus?

Some attorneys solely focus on real estate law, whereas others practice several other types of law in addition to real estate. 

Working with an attorney who exclusively handles real estate law cases could be helpful, as it likely means they’ve seen a broader range of cases and may have a better understanding of your specific needs. 

That isn’t to say lawyers with broader practices can’t be a great fit. We suggest you evaluate your options holistically to find the lawyer that fits your needs best. 

Does your practice focus on particular areas of real estate law?

As covered in our Real Estate Law Overview, real estate law encompasses many different types of real estate issues, including:

  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Residential real estate transactions
  • Commercial real estate transactions
  • Zoning and other land-use regulations
  • Eviction
  • Foreclosure  

Some real estate attorneys only take cases in specific areas of real estate law, such as residential transactions. Others might specifically focus on commercial transactions or landlord-tenant disputes. A foreclosure lawyer will specialize in, you guessed it, foreclosure law.

The key is to find a lawyer who has experience in the specific type of real estate law that applies to your case.

How long have you been practicing real estate law?

Experience is valuable and should be an important consideration when selecting a lawyer. 

But more experience may also mean a higher price. Keep in mind that less experienced lawyers can be just as smart and capable even though they may have handled fewer cases thus far.

How much do your real estate services cost?

The cost of handling your real estate case could vary greatly depending on the attorney's experience and the particular facts involved in your case. For instance, legal fees for a complex commercial real estate transaction will be far greater than a straightforward residential home purchase.  

Additionally, a real estate attorney might charge a fixed fee for certain cases (like a basic home closing) and an hourly rate for other cases (such as a complex commercial negotiation).

Either way, the lawyer should be able to provide a range of how much your case will cost from start to finish as well as guidance on how they would charge you.

Will anyone else work on my case?

A real estate lawyer might handle your case by themselves, or they may have assistance from other attorneys, legal secretaries, or paralegals. Having non-attorneys assist with your casework can actually distribute work more efficiently and keep your costs down, but it is helpful to know upfront who will be working on your case.

How will we communicate?

Most lawyers, including real estate lawyers, have different communication preferences. Some prefer to communicate over email, whereas others prefer speaking over video calls or phone calls. Consider your own communication preferences to ensure you select a lawyer whose preferences align with yours. 

Whatever your preference, it’s essential to know how to contact your real estate lawyer if any issues or questions arise.

How frequently should I expect to hear from you?

There is no “correct” answer to this one. Some people prefer regular check-ins, while others only want to hear from their attorney when there’s a big update. 

The key here is to make sure you understand, and are comfortable with, a lawyer’s communication practices before hiring them.

What do you need from me?

If you decide to hire the real estate lawyer you speak with, you’ll need to formalize the relationship, including by signing a retainer agreement. More generally, though, this is a good question to ask because your real estate attorney will need your assistance and participation to achieve the best possible result.

The bottom line

Price, experience, and your comfort level with the real estate lawyer are just three of the many factors to consider before hiring legal representation. These questions should help you evaluate your options, but you should also trust your instincts.