- Personal Finance
Foreclosure Lawyer: A Tutorial on How to Hire the Best One to Help You Prevent Foreclosure
Foreclosure Lawyer: What You Need to Know Before Hiring One
If you’re trying to prevent foreclosure, you may be considering hiring a foreclosure lawyer to guide you through the process. Before you start surfing the net or thumbing through the Yellow Pages, following is an in-depth tutorial on what to do before you hire one to help you stop foreclosure.
Foreclosure Lawyer: What to Expect in the Way of Credentials, Experience & Customer Service
Licensing: As discussed in the last section below, there are a lot of foreclosure scams going on right now. So first and foremost, you want to be sure that the foreclosure lawyer you’re considering hiring is licensed to practice in your state.
I know this is a basic, but you’d be amazed at how many people assume that just because someone says they’re a lawyer (doctor, psychotherapist, licensed realtor), etc., that they are. Most people never take the time to check basic professional credentials.
Foreclosure Lawyer: How to Find Info on a Particular One
To find out if the foreclosure attorney you want to hire is licensed to practice in your state, all you have to do is contact your state’s Bar Association. Here is a page with a list of state bar associations. You can search for info on a particular foreclosure lawyer by using Martindale-Hubbell's Lawyer Locater directory.
Certification/Training: Foreclosure laws are constantly changing, as evidenced by late-year 2009 changes to Florida foreclosure law. Hence, the foreclosure lawyer you’re thinking of using should have current knowledge. In order to do this, many states require that real estate professionals like agents and real estate attorneys take certain certification courses to stay up to date.
Ask the foreclosure attorney in question when was the last time he/she took courses to update their knowledge – particularly as it relates to foreclosure laws in your jurisdiction.
Customer Service: Some professionals can be excellent at what they do, but not very good in the way of customer service. What do I mean by this? They may have a “just get me the paperwork I ask for and let me handle it” attitude.
You don’t want a foreclosure lawyer like this. This is your home we’re talking about. You’re probably confused and scared. And, to top it off, you may have little to no knowledge about the foreclosure process. A good foreclosure attorney should be patient, encouraging you to ask questions and explain – in detail – what you don’t understand.
They should also be able to lay out all of your options to you, eg, foreclosure refinance, short sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure, etc.
A good foreclosure attorney will also explain the consequences of each action. Eg, if you do a short sale, you may owe more in taxes. Or, a short sale will impact your credit similar to a bankruptcy. Or, you won’t qualify for an FHA loan for three years if you lose your home to foreclosure.
Finally, a foreclosure attorney they should never encourage you to sign anything you don’t understand. Real estate law – especially as it relates to foreclosure -- can be quite complicated and sticky. There are a lot of legal terms associated with it that need explaining, eg, right of redemption laws (did you know that you can get your home back using this little-known law?), deed in lieu of foreclosure with no recourse, etc.
Until you know exactly what it is that you’re signing, don’t sign a thing. And if your foreclosure lawyer doesn’t take the time to explain things to you in layman’s terms, find another one – please. Again, this is your home we’re talking about.
Foreclosure Lawyer Fees
A reputable foreclosure attorney will clearly outline in the way of fess: (i) exactly which services he/she will render; (ii) what the fee is; (iii) how they accept payment and what the terms are; and (iv) how the relationship can be terminated (by them or you), eg, in writing, after certain services have been rendered, upon nonpayment, etc.
They should also provide references that are easy to check.
Foreclosure Lawyer: Why Experience Is Key
When hiring a foreclosure attorney, try to find one with a lot of experience. Beyond the obvious reason, those with experience have useful networks that you can easily plug into to get the help you need quickly.
For example, they may know an excellent account who deals with clients who have real estate problems like foreclosure. There are special tax implications that must be taken into consideration when this happens. Hence, you will need an accountant who knows how to properly prepare your taxes.
Experienced foreclosure lawyers in your jurisdiction also tend to be very familiar with the legal team of many lenders in your jurisdiction. Hence, they’ll better positioned to negotiate better on your behalf because they know what a particular lender will accept, what they won’t accept, the deals they can cut with them, etc.
Foreclosure Lawyers & Other Specialists: Why It’s Imperative to Proceed with Caution
There are a lot of foreclosure scams going on, especially since the mortgage crisis started this whole housing mess in the fall of 2007. So be very careful about contact you may receive from anyone claiming to be a foreclosure lawyer, foreclosure specialist, foreclosure consultant, mortgage expert, foreclosure refinance specialist, etc.
Many times you will receive solicitations in the mail, or even phone calls. And you may wonder, “how did they know I’m facing foreclosure?” Well, foreclosures and other real estate information is a matter of public record. Many scam artists (and reputable businesses) regularly use these public sources of information to get your contact info.
And, because they seem professional – after all, they sent a nice postcard/official letter in the mail – they must be legitimate, right? Not!
A reputable foreclosure lawyer or other foreclosure specialist is very easy to find – if you do your due diligence.