What questions do you ask your CPA & Attorney?

3 Replies

To all that either have had the opportunity to deal with attorneys and CPA's or not I will take all advice given. I am just beginning and wanted to know the basic steps in vetting a attorney and CPA. What are the basic questions you would ask, have asked, or will ask in the future to determine if the individual has a general knowledge on real estate investing. 

a podcast on here said one of the first questions should be: do you own any investment real estate? 

in the podcast they recommended finding one who has an active interest in real estate investing, aka owns some other then their primary residence.

this is supposed to help ensure they are experienced in that field and know all the ins & outs regarding the specific tax or whatever subject and how it relates to your real estate investments

I agree with Isaac on the importance of CPAs and attorneys personally thinking and applying the latest and greatest to themselves, which they can then pass along to their clients.  Ask them to describe their type of investing and properties too, to ensure it is applicable to you plus recent.  Also:

1) Ask for at least 3 references of people with similar situations to yours.  Call every one of them, and ask about what areas the CPA/attorney could improve upon, what are their best areas of service, and how have they compared to other CPAs/attorneys in the past?

2) Are they active in any local real estate organizations?  Not imperative, but it can show involvement, interest in staying current, and connections in the field.

3) Sometimes a professional will say they "specialize" in real estate.  Then I always go to their web site, and it is incredible how many times the CPA's site just lists the normal laundry list of preparing personal and business taxes, or the attorney's site emphasizes irrelevant litigation support, estate planning, and such with "Real Estate" as bullet #20 on the generic list of 30 "specialty areas".

4) Ask investors and local REIA not only for referrals, but also ask what they have heard of your candidate if your candidate's name does not come up. This can lead to independent references that may show a fuller picture than the pre-screened references mentioned in #1 above.

5) Check independent rating and consumer protection web sites, but always take small numbers of reviews with a grain of salt (whether positive or negative).

6) Ask them how and what they would recommend for your particular situation.  Even though they won't know many specifics yet and will say as much, you can get an idea of their thinking process and how it aligns with your goals.

7) Ask where they align on the "conservative to aggressive" continuum, and ask them to provide specific examples.

8) If you are approaching an attorney for a specific scenario, then ask for specific examples of how they have addressed it in the past (not hypothetical, but real examples).  They will need to protect client privacy, but they should be able to give other specifics to tell the tale.

9) If approaching a CPA, ask how often their tax returns get audited, what has been their success rate in those audits, and how are fees handled for audits (the latter can range from "included service" to "separately billed" to "don't do").

Best Regards,

Scott Price

Thanks @scott price and @isaac Essex you both have given me great information I really appreciate it. Hopefully one day I can answer some of your questions. 

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