Real estate attorneys are still catching their breath after a record-breaking real estate season in 2021. Home sales in the U.S. were projected to reach their highest level in 15 years, with an estimated 6 million sales in 2021.
While some 2021 trends likely will continue into 2022 — including low inventory and high prices — real estate attorneys can rely on one pre-pandemic constant: Real estate season. The average home sale price jumps nearly 10% between January and June, and the average time on the market drops by 25% or more.
Come spring, real estate attorneys must be ready to hit the ground sprinting, and keep the pace up for months. So if, like other small real estate firms, you’re in a comparative lull, right now is the best time to lay the groundwork for success. Here are the simple-but-effective steps real estate attorneys can start taking today to prepare for real estate season.
Identify + automate low-value tasks to free up your staff’s time
Attorneys’ time is precious — especially during real estate season. Efficient is paramount, with fee-earners focused on billable, high-value activities like meeting with clients and negotiating contracts.
Firms can become their most-efficient selves by actively identifying — and avoiding — low-value distractions. This might include creating documents from scratch, tracking (and logging) time and managing email inboxes. Before the busy season gets underway, real estate law firms should ask their team to identify low-value tasks that take up too much time, focus and energy.
Unfortunately, attorneys can’t forget menial tasks altogether. Creating documents from scratch and managing inbox might be time-consuming and tedious, but someone has to do it. Or rather, something has to do it.
Here’s where automation comes in. McKinsey and Co. estimates 23% of a lawyer’s current work can be automated. That’s a lot of time that could be spent on tasks that require human qualities like intuition and empathy. Using your list of low-value tasks, determine which items can be automated and implement those processes using your legal practice management software.
How Smokeball can help: Smokeball’s most powerful feature, automatic time tracking, helps real estate firms at every turn. Our legal practice management software records every action you take, from composing emails to building documents, resulting in law firm insight reports that spotlight areas where your staff expends unnecessary energy. And with legal document automation, attorneys draft contracts in minutes, automatically populating all key case data from the related Smokeball matter.
Update your processes to meet the modern client’s needs
Homebuying has only become more complicated and stressful during COVID-19. First-time homebuyers will likely need extra support as they grapple with increased demand without increased supply, which is pushing up prices. Real estate attorneys must be available on a wide range of communication channels, ready to take a call or respond to an urgent inquiry — especially during real estate season, when offers move at warp-speed.
Clients might even have to close on their home remotely, which is becoming increasingly common. Attorneys can only support their clients with remote closings if they have access to the right technology, including e-signing and filing (where allowed) and video conferencing tools. They also need to stay up to speed with their state’s latest laws and regulations. For instance, while remote closings are legal in many states, the laws are slightly more hazy in others (including Kansas, Connecticut and New Jersey).
That said, real estate attorneys can’t forget about the basics. They can only serve clients effectively by staying on top of all key deadlines (such as closings or submission deadlines for key documents) and using only the most up-to-date real estate legal forms.
How Smokeball can help: The Communicate portal, available through the Smokeball app, allows attorneys to securely communicate with their clients. Share files, save messages to the relevant matter and be on hand at all times to reassure clients during their complex, potentially stressful homebuying journeys.
Thanks to Smokeball’s legal calendaring capabilities, you can easily juggle dozens of document deadlines and closings simultaneously. Stay on top of your schedule and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
When it comes to creating, editing and sending key documents, Smokeball’s library of more than 18,000 automated legal forms ensures the right document is always at your fingertips. Speed up the process of creating purchase agreements, collecting escrow details or compiling lengthy appraisals documents.
Of course, real estate attorneys rely on multiple tools to help get their clients’ deals over the line. Thanks to Smokeball’s range of deep integrations, including Zoom and Chicago Title, your tools will play nicely with one another, ensuring a smooth process from start to finish.
Now’s the time to gear up for busy season
With potentially dozens of cases on your plate at a given time, spring and summer will never be a calm time for real estate attorneys. But you can certainly enjoy a more effective, efficient real estate season by implementing tools to take care of low-value tasks, increase your client communication capabilities and ensure you meet all upcoming deadlines.