For many people, buying or selling a house is one of the most significant transactions of their life, and it stands to reason that you’d want to turn to a professional rather than navigating the process on your own. If you’re purchasing a new home or considering selling your house, your first inclination might be to enlist the help of a real estate agent. But while buying and selling agents can be a good option, you may be surprised to learn that a real estate attorney might actually be the best option.
The influx of people moving to the State of Texas has led to a shortage of housing opportunities. This shortage has contributed to the rise in housing prices and created a seller’s market. Texas homeowners have been taking advantage of the situation and real estate agents have been taking advantage of the homeowners.
According to B. Douglas Bernheim, Jonathan Meer, and their article “Do Real Estate Brokers Add Value When Listing Services Are Unbundled?” having a real estate agent is essentially less beneficial when selling your home. The following excerpt illustrates the idea:
“We estimate the effect of a seller’s decision to use a broker on list prices, selling prices, and speed of sale for a real estate market with an unusual and critical characteristic: it has a single open-access listing service that is used by essentially all sellers, regardless of whether they employ brokers. Our central finding is that, when listings are not tied to brokerage services, a seller’s use of a broker reduces the selling price of the typical home by 5.9 to 7.7 percent, which indicates that agency costs exceed the advantages of brokers’ knowledge and expertise by a wide margin.”
They found that Texas MLS listings may be used by all sellers, and they do not always have a broker representing them. The lack of financial gain of real estate agents gives them less of a motive to work harder to earn more money for your home the terms of the transaction may not be favorable to the agent’s client. The amount of money a homeowner pays for a real estate agent, unfortunately, may be excessive, not proportional to the amount of work actually done by the agent.
Henceforth, there are important burdens to consider when hiring a real estate agent to sell your home:
Obligations to the Client
A real estate agent’s obligations to his or her client are somewhat limited, and he or she may not necessarily be working in your best interest. For example, a real estate agent can represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction, or could even be the buyer, which obviously could leave you in a very vulnerable position.
Attorneys, on the other hand, have a very clear duty to their clients. The real estate lawyer-client relationship provides for a high degree of privacy and confidentiality, which does not exist in a real estate agent-client relationship. A real estate attorney will be representing you and only you in the buying or selling of a house, and an attorney is not incentivized by increasing or decreasing the purchase price.
Furthermore, while it is typically advisable to hire an agent or other third parties for the marketing and advertising portion of the sale of your property; it is the real estate lawyers who will typically get involved during the transactional phase.
Compared to an agent, a real estate attorney is in a position to give you the most unbiased representation possible.
Real estate agents are almost exclusively paid by commission, which they will only receive if the transaction closes. If the transaction doesn’t close, they aren’t paid. This means agents are motivated to “seal the deal,” which on the surface may sound like a good thing. But that motivation may cause an agent to push for a closing that might not be in your best interest.
An attorney (specifically a real estate attorney), on the other hand, will be paid directly by you, and his or her fees will be made clear to you from the start. A real estate attorney’s fees are set from the start and are generally much less than those paid to your agent. The real estate attorney’s objective is to ensure that the Buyer or Seller are protected through the contract and associated documents, not to ensure that the sale is finalized. Real estate attorneys understand that sometimes not all deals are meant to be made, even if that results in the attorney having to refund a portion of the fee.
Generally, a Texas homeowner that sells his or her house using a real estate agent ends up paying that commissions in the amount of 6% of the purchase price. To put that into perspective, you have to pay $21,000 to the real estate agents involved for a house that sells for $350,000! That number is staggering considering that many homes are on the market for less than 30 days and that most homes sell themselves.
In contrast, the fees paid to a third to photograph and list the home on MLS and fees paid to a real estate attorney would cost the Seller less than a third of the commission earned by an agent.
You can probably infer that a real estate attorney is better equipped to provide you with legal guidance than an ordinary real estate is. Agents can fill out the promulgated forms provided by Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC), but they can neither draft personalized forms nor modify substantially modify the existing forms. They also cannot provide legal advice regarding those “standardized forms”—only a licensed attorney may do that.
Real estate attorneys, on the other hand, have the ability to create personalized contract and associated documents should the need present itself. Moreover, those attorneys will be able to explain the necessity for certain provisions and guide you through the negotiation process prior to the execution of the contract. Real estate attorneys are also capable of drafting amendments and other documents in a way as to alleviate ambiguities so as to reduce or eliminate the chance of confusion among the parties.
In addition to drafting contracts and ancillary documents concerning the purchase or sale of a home, real estate attorneys are equipped to draft documents such as promissory notes and deeds of trust for use in seller-financed transactions as well as personalized documents for unconventional transactions.
Agents and attorneys working hand-in-hand
In many instances having both a licensed real estate agent and a licensed attorney on your side is optimal. Many of our clients have found that having an agent throughout the listing process made marketing the home much effective than doing it alone or using a disinterested third party. Those same clients have expressed that having an attorney prepare, review and maintain the purchase contracts and associated documents put their mind at ease and allowed the entire transaction transpire with little to no stress or frustration.
Benefits of a Real Estate Attorney
Many Texas homeowners are realizing the benefit of selling their home by using a real estate agent do not outweigh the cost associated with the agent’s services. In fact, the same services provided by real estate agents can be done just as effectively by the homeowner with a little help from a Texas Real Estate Attorney.
Additional Resource: Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney? by Jennifer Karami.
The real estate attorneys at The Farah Law Firm, P.C. are available to help Texas homeowners navigate the sale of their home from before the home hits the market through closing. The Farah Law Firm, P.C. offers the following real estate services:
- Pre-listing consultation services
- Residential contract drafting
- Document review
- In-house title and closing services
- Closing Attorney Services
- Wrap-Around transaction document preparation
- Owner financing document preparation
- Many other services concerning and related to residential real estate
If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, turn to the real estate attorneys and real estate investment attorneys at The Farah Law Firm. In addition to practicing law, attorney Michael Farah is also a licensed Realtor® and an avid real estate investor, which gives him the knowledge and experience to help you sell your house at the best possible price and terms that you can hope for. Contact our office today to discuss your real estate needs and our services.