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An Insider FAQ on Real Estate Lawyers: An Interview with John Cappello of the Law Office of John Cappello

By John Cappello

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Founded in 2012, the Law Office of John Cappello is engaged in the general practice of law, and concentrates in the areas of real estate law, probate and estate planning, and divorce and family law. Our office is centrally located on Route 116 in Lincoln, and we practice in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts.

Our typical real estate clients include individual buyers and sellers (including first-time buyers), residential and commercial developers, builders, homeowners in need of quit-claim deeds or title examinations, and local small businesses. Probate and estate planning clients include individuals in need of a simple will, trust or power of attorney, or those in need of a probate or guardianship administration for a loved one's estate. We also represent clients in uncontested divorce proceedings, particularly those where real estate is the main marital asset.

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

If you needed a tooth removed, you probably wouldn't do it yourself - you would go see your dentist. Buying or selling a house (though perhaps not as painful as a tooth extraction) is a major financial transaction for both sides. The obvious reasons for involving an attorney are making sure the title is passed correctly and closing funds are disbursed properly.

Less obvious but equally important reasons to hire your own attorney are that your attorney has an ethical duty to represent your best interests and only your best interests. He or she will provide unbiased advice regarding contract negotiations, financing options, and will explain each and every document you sign at closing.

As a seller, it is equally as wise to choose your own attorney to represent you. By default, the closing attorney (who represents the buyer and/or lender, not you) will prepare the documents needed to pass clear title to the buyer and will charge you, the seller, a fee for this service. For about the same cost, sellers should always hire their own attorney to represent their interests before closing and at closing.

Do you have an example of situations where sellers or buyers were really glad they had hired a lawyer?

A recent buyer contacted my office while still in the house-hunting stage. I met with her right away, explained the home-buying process from start to finish, and provided some recommendations for known, trusted real estate agents and mortgage loan originators. Within three months, that client (with the help of a referred real estate agent) found the home of her dreams at a great price, got a loan that fit her needs (with a mortgage originator she selected on her own), and was closed and moved in. In the end, her legal and title fees were $150 less than her mortgage company quoted in her good faith estimate - and she had an attorney in her corner from day one.

Ideally, when should a prospective home buyer hire a real estate lawyer?

As soon as someone decides they want to see if homeownership is possible, they should consult with a real estate lawyer. Most of us will gladly sit down for free with a potential buyer and explain the process and provide referrals for qualified real estate agents and loan originators.

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

Ask your friends and family who've gone through the homebuying process recently who they used and how their experience was. Facebook and social media are great tools for blasting out such a query to a large number of people.

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?

Keep the lines of communication open with your attorney every step of the way. Most importantly, let us know before you sign a purchase agreement and before you apply for a loan. These are two very critical stages in the home-buying process where attorneys' advice is often underutilized.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

Our contact information is below. We understand that real estate deals usually happen after hours, so to make ourselves more accessible I publish my cell phone and gladly answer calls or text messages (days, evenings and weekends). I tend to respond to emails and text messages within minutes, and voicemails within hours.

640 George Washington Highway
Suite 103
Lincoln, RI 02865
Office: (401) 390-3700
Fax: (401) 390-3702
Cell: (401) 524-8300
E-mail: john@jclegal.net

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