So, you’ve done all the legwork, been to the bank, spent weeks and weeks doing the back-and-forth and now you are ready to plunk down on new home. Or maybe you’re starting a new enterprise and buying your first rental property. Perhaps you’re looking to start your own small business and have your eyes on a commercial property.

No matter the type of real estate transaction, the question is the same: Where do you go from here? How will you choose an attorney who can cut through the legal jargon and walk you through the closing process?

Hiring a real estate attorney is an important choice. A real estate transaction usually means that a significant amount of money is about to change hands. That can be a little nerve-racking for most people! The real estate attorney will take over after the selling price and terms have been established by the realtors and all involved parties have signed. She will evaluate the contract, negotiate any repairs based on the home inspection report, work together with the title company, and accompany you to the settlement. 

If you already have a relationship with an attorney, you can always ask if he does real estate law as well. Many lawyers have a general law practice and can handle many different types of cases, including real estate law. However, you might not want to consider an out-of-town lawyer friend. A real estate transaction is not the same as drafting a will. A will can be drafted remotely while a real estate transaction is more location-specific. It often requires knowing what is considered reasonable and customary for a particular area. Someone local is an important asset.

If you don’t already know an attorney, you can Google local options, ask your real estate agent if she has a recommendation, or ask friends for referrals. In any of these scenarios, you can schedule a consultation with a few attorneys to help narrow your decision. During the appointment, your goal will be to get a sense for the attorney’s experience in handling real estate transactions. Has she successfully handled several other real estate closings? If he familiar with your particular type of transaction? Will she need to navigate any particular circumstances such as buying a property that is a short sale? It is important that you feel comfortable with her level of experience for your particular kind of real estate transaction.

During your meetings with each attorney, get a clear idea as to how much he charges and a good estimate of how much it will cost you to have him represent you. This should be clear regardless whether the attorney bills by the hour or charges a flat fee. Once you find an attorney who fits your real estate needs, hire him! As you move forward, be sure to provide your attorney with all documents related to your real estate transaction. As you do so, he will learn the ins-and-outs of your transaction and ask any necessary questions before a real estate closing occurs. If there are any problems or issues with your transaction, they can be dealt with proactively.