Real Estate Legal Opinion Letter

4 Replies

Hi, Has anyone ever approached a lawyer for a legal "opinion letter" before proceeding with an investment? Are they important? Do they help? I am looking to talk to a real estate lawyer in the following, and would love an intro to learn more: Charlotte, Philly, Nashville, Austin, Chicago, Indianapolis. Thanks! 

Hi Mark,

You go to a lawyer to make sure you got the legal aspects of a transaction defined and under control. Every transaction is composed of "deal" points and "legal" points. The maximum value of a lawyer's advice is for the latter and may be useful for the former. Purchase price, improvement costs, capital stack and structure are examples of deal points. How you vest in the project, dispute resolution, venue and applicable law are examples of legal points.

If you do need the opinion of a lawyer, be aware that there is a big difference between getting legal advice and getting a legal opinion. You get the former pretty much all of the time you engage and buy legal services. You get the former when you commission and engage a lawyer to offer his/her opinion in the form of a formal opinion letter. An opinion letter is a document that is typically drafted at the specific request of a client that offers the lawyer's judgement of a given issue or set of circumstances.

Without knowing more about your intentions and needs, it is difficult to advise you as to whether or not you need a lawyer's opinion. Your posing the question seems to indicate that it would make sense for you to retain legal services to ensure the investment you are considering is well documented. If you are thinking about asking the lawyer for his/her opinion as to the financial viability of the investment, I would listen if he/she is talking, but take that advice for what it is...an opinion and make sure you get input from other sources in making your financial decisions.

Best of luck

Hi @Barry Ruby ...

Thank you for your reply! Based on what you wrote, I actually think I need the latter... I am trying to actually get an understanding of a specific legal point (as you say) in a specific city (the ones I mentioned). Basically a review of a piece of legislation that may or may not affect the properties... Thank you for your input... Now to find the lawyers :). Any recommendations?

Hi there! For Austin why don't you check out Scott Royal Smith's blog here to see how you like him. He is a local lawyer and a real estate investor himself. I have NOT used im YET but reading and listening to his advise he seems to be on top of things and most importantly he understands the real estate business. Good luck.

An attorney opinion letter is about the most dagerous (for the attorney) work product we produce, so expect to pay accordingly.  Any attorney you ask will make sure to narrowly define the scope, have no fear of that.

For most SFR, it happens frequently enough to ask a lawyer for doc review. This may be more what you are looking for. If your transaction is pushing into the million dollar range, that might be time to have a lawyer as part of the transaction, not after the fact for an opinion letter.

For general knowledge, your local REI groups will be better on a cost/hour measurement. While I started as an investor, then went to law school after the crash, and can teach every aspect of REI in Texas, I highly doubt anyone wants to pay my hourly rate to learn the ins and outs of real estate investing.

BTW, I live in Georgetown (just North of Austin) and have a main office in Houston.