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Answers to Common Questions About Real Estate Lawyers: An Interview with Scott Yaldo of Yaldo Law

By Scott Yaldo

Tell us a little bit about your firm and the areas of law your practice.

Yaldo Law is conveniently located in Downtown Birmingham. We are a small, boutique firm, which allows us to give clients personalized attention. We practice in the areas of real estate and business transactions, real estate and business litigation, and in most general civil matters. We consider ourselves the equivalent of a family doctor's office, but for legal needs. If we can't help you with your legal matter, we can usually refer you to an attorney in our network who specializes in your area of concern. We represent and handle legal matters for some of the biggest legal referral services, including Legal Shield (formerly Pre-Paid Legal Services), Hyatt Legal Plans, and U.S. Legal Services, among others. Only the top rated attorneys are offered participation in these types of referral plans, and Yaldo Law has participated for close to 20 years.

If having a lawyer is not legally required for a residential transaction, what is the benefit of hiring one?

For most people, buying a house is one of the biggest investments they will make in their lifetime. Having a lawyer involved from the beginning of the process, is of utmost importance to protect that investment. It's as important as hiring an inspector to inspect the house before the purchase. While it's not technically necessary, it is sound to do so, as most ordinary people will not know visually whether the roof will need replacement soon, or whether the mechanical aspects of the home have deterioration, excess wear and tear, or whether the foundation presents an issue. These are just outside the scope of an ordinary individual buyer's expertise.

The same goes for the formation of the Purchase Offer or Purchase Agreement, or the review of the closing documents, including the boundary survey, or the title commitment or the title insurance policy, etc. These documents typically contain verbiage that an ordinary home buyer (or even seller) will not understand, and will involve issues that an ordinary buyer may not perceive. That's where an experienced attorney, not just any attorney, will make a difference. Personally, I would pay an attorney to have the peace of mind of knowing I will not have a future issue with a defect in title, and to have an attorney explain each and every provision of the transaction to me. At Yaldo Law, the Principal, Scott Yaldo, is a licensed Real Estate Broker, and previously owned a title insurance agency, which handled thousands of closings during his ownership. Yaldo Law has never had a legal malpractice claim raised against it or any of its attorneys, and enjoys rave reviews from former clients. Avvo.com, a lawyer's tracking website, contains some of those reviews.

What are the most common reasons why you might need an attorney when you buy or sell a house?

One very important reason is to draft the Purchase Agreement or at least to review and/or modify one already drafted by the real estate agent. Negotiations are often necessary for many aspects of the Agreement, above and beyond the agreed upon sale price, such as time for inspections; time and expense payment for possession post closing; events of default; remedies in the event of default; engagement of a qualified closing title company; earnest money deposit; and the list goes on. A good lawyer will protect his/her client's interests, and not merely submit a standard form that does not conform to the client's desired results. Sure, there are many standard purchase offer forms already drafted by boards of realtors and used by many real estate agents, but a lawyer will modify the form so as to meet or exceeds his/her client's desired goals and expectations, and to ensure the protection of his/her client. Additionally, review and examination of the chain of title is equally important prior to closing, to ensure the Buyer is receiving a clean title without any encumbrances, and without the possibility of an encumbrance being placed on the title after closing, which encumbrance may have arisen prior to closing. Again, the list goes on and on. At the end of the day, a buyer/seller wants to know the transaction closed without any issues, and that's what a good lawyer can ensure.

When should a prospective home buyer hire a real estate lawyer?

Once the buyer find a house or property he/she wants to purse purchasing, then that's the best time to hire the attorney to prepare the Purchase Agreement or Offer. People have the misconception that they should wait to hire an attorney simply to attend the closing. This is wrong. The closing is merely a ceremony to sign documents based on terms that you have already agreed to in the Purchase Agreement. It is much more important to have the attorney involved prior to the signing of the Purchase Agreement, rather than after signing it. Once you've signed, you're stuck to the terms you agreed to. That's not to say you do not need an attorney at closing, rather, you need one prior to the signing of the Purchase Agreement through the closing. Typically, this type of service is performed on a flat fee, so there is no need to fret the legal bill, and you will know in advance the cost of the engagement of the attorney.

How would you suggest that people find a reliable and competent residential real estate lawyer?

Word of mouth is typically a good source, as you will be getting a recommendation from someone you know, who has used a particular attorney in the past. Real estate periodicals or magazines will typically feature advertisements of attorneys specializing that field. However, you should always check out the attorney's credentials, perhaps check with the state Bar, to see if they have been disciplined and for what, etc. Avvo.com also features many attorneys nationally, and is a good place to search.

What advice can you give home buyers about working effectively with their real estate attorney to make the home buying process as smooth as possible?

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Communication is essential in any relationship, especially in an attorney-client relationship, where the stakes may be high. Since Yaldo Law's fee is flat for a typical real estate transaction, you have every incentive to communicate with us, as we will not bill you for every phone call or email! The more we know about your gals and needs, the more effective we can be in representing you.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your firm?

I can be reached by telephone at 248-645-5300, or email at Scott@Yaldolaw.com. Our physical address is 500 S. Old Woodward, Second Floor, Birmingham, MI 48009. Our firm's website is www.Yaldolaw.com. I personally respond to every phone call and email inquiry, and I look forward to yours!

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