How to find a good Foreign Property Lawyer

It may seem slightly obvious, but when you are hiring a lawyer to handle your real estate transaction, it is important to pick one who specializes in property transactions within your chosen country. Laws are in a constant state of flux, and a specialist should have all the latest changes at their fingertips and are most likely to complete your property sale to your satisfaction.

However, just finding a property solicitor does not guarantee that they are good, or they have the experience you need. Here is a list of questions you should ask to gauge how well your property lawyer knows his market and how much (good) experience he has:

How many property transactions do you handle in this country a year?
You should look for at least 25 closed transactions per year and under about 50. If the lawyer has handled too many, it indicates that he does not do the work himself – it is palmed off to junior solicitors and paralegals. Whilst this is not a problem if the contract is simple and straightforward, it could prove problematic if something goes wrong with the deal, or something unusual crops up.

How much experience do you have closing _________ (insert the type of property you are buying here).
Every type of property has it’s own quirks and characteristics so it is important the the lawyer has experience in that given field. Mortgages may differ according to the type of property you are buying, or there may be specific laws or taxes which you need to be aware of. Always choose an attorney who has good experience of the type of property you are buying.

How much do you charge?

If possible, you want a flat fee. Hourly charges are bad as you often can’t guess how many hours will be spent on your case. Some may charge a percentage of the sale price. Beware of extra charges – make sure you know exactly what your final bill will have on it. Will you just be charged for time? Or will there be charges for pens? Paperclips? Delivery charges?

Who will be handling my contract?
Ideally, you want a senior lawyer or partner to handle your case rather than a trainee lawyer or paralegal. This is because they are more likely to have a good grasp of the law and what is require and are less likely to mess things up. They will also be the most knowledgeable if you have any questions.

Will you go through the contract with me before I sign?
The answer to this should be an unequivocal “Yes”. It’s a good idea to take the contract away and read it through, marking any parts you are unsure about or you have questions on. Then, you should go back to your lawyer and go through all the details on the contract to ensure you understand exactly what is and isn’t on the contract.

Can I contact previous clients?
If the lawyer is good, they should be able to give you the contact details of previous clients (it may take a couple of days to get permission). This way, you can see how effectively the lawyer has dealt with previous contracts and you will have a good feel for whether this is the right lawyer for you.

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