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Finding the Right Real Estate Lawyer: An Interview with Joanne Dykes of The Hart Law Group

By Joanne Dykes

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Mary Hart established The Hart Law Group in 2006 after spending 13 years practicing law in Alaska. When she returned to her North Carolina roots, she knew she wanted to start a firm on her terms. The lovely historic house at 93 Church Street has been the home of her practice for eight years and Mary is as determined and passionate as ever to serve the Western North Carolina community. The practice has grown to employ four attorneys and four part, or full-time, staff all of whom are women!

Our mission at The Hart Law Group is to offer a unique team-based approach, compassionately serving our WNC community and representing our clients through high quality council and advocacy with uncompromising dedication, integrity and ethical standards.

What advice do we have for someone shopping for a real estate attorney?

  • Don't shop price alone. The purchase of a home is a huge investment, possibly your largest. You want to hire an attorney who will make sure that there are no issues with the title that will affect your use of the property or impair your ability to sell this investment. This cannot be accomplished by an attorney who is cutting corners to offer a low flat fee.
  • Hire an attorney who will take your calls if you have questions about legal matters, and whose paralegal or assistant is equally willing to take your calls.
  • Insist on a full 40 year search, and make sure the attorney you have hired is planning to personally review the chain of title.

The five most important things you need to know hiring a real estate attorney are:

  • Know that they review the title search themselves, understanding every document in the chain.
  • Know that they work for a firm with attorneys competent in other areas so that they can give counsel on the bigger picture
  • Know that they have competent and cordial support staff.
  • Know that you feel comfortable talking to them about anything.
  • There are many parties involved in a real estate closing: other parties, other attorneys, bank officers and employees, realtors. It is of utmost importance that you know that your attorney is working for you, and not anyone else who might have an interest in getting the closing to the table.

How do the statutes of North Carolina influence real estate law as it pertains to hiring an attorney for a real estate matter?

The most practical answer to this question, especially if you are considering the purchase of a residence, is that the laws under which we must most carefully operate are federal banking laws. For your loan to be processed and closed smoothly your attorney and her assistant must be up to date on all the recent revisions to banking laws.

The state laws address how property is titled and the effects of problems in the chain of title. For these issues to be addressed correctly, you must hire an attorney who is licensed in the state where the property you are buying is located.

Are testimonials and recommendations important?

Recommendations by your friends are very important, especially if they are in a position to know what to expect from a good real estate attorney. Our real estate practice has grown by leaps and bounds based on referrals from former or existing clients. Testimonials can be problematic for a law firm due to the constraints of our confidentiality rules.

How much experience do you think is necessary for a real estate lawyer to have?

Experience is very important. However, it can work against you if the job has become "turn key." What is most important is attention to detail, and a willingness to take the time to thoroughly understand a property. There are certain steps that must be taken to complete a title search and a closing. None of them should ever be bypassed, even when closing appears simple.

Is it possible to consult with a real estate attorney free of charge prior to making a decision about hiring one?

Absolutely, and we encourage potential clients to call and get a feel for how we do business. We want you to know in advance how our fees are set and what they cover, and what may require additional time on any matter.

What are some of the services your company provides?

Our attorneys, Mary Hart, Margaret Toms, Joanne Dykes and Mae Creadick, have a combined experience of more than 70 years. They each have areas of focus, but work as a team to provide legal services tailored to your family or business. Our practice areas include:

  • Estate and trust planning and administration
  • Probate
  • Guardianships
  • Domestic partnership planning
  • Trusts and self-directed IRAs
  • Commercial and residential real estate transactions, contracts, and closings
  • Business and contract law
  • Civil litigation
  • Will caveats
  • Family law, including collaborative divorce, custody and child support, with a special focus on serving the LGBT community

Contact Info:

Call our office at 828-271-4278. Your call will always be answered, and we'll be happy to assist you with your matter. We also invite you to visit our website: to learn more about us and our firm.

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