Why Sellers Should Avoid Relying on a Real Estate Agent to Answer Legal Questions? (#10 of 15 common mistakes we see home sellers make)

Home Sellers should not ask their agents legal questions

(Much of this material is taken from our previous blog on why Buyers should pay attention to contract deadlines.  To see that post, click here.  The material here has been modified to apply more to Sellers and fit our title.)

Our Managing Attorney, Marc Jacob, tells the following story to illustrate why it’s much better for the client to keep their professional team members in their respective silos (at least in some ways):

A friend once asked me to show him and his wife a house that went up for sale on my block. He wanted me to be his real estate attorney on the deal and, since I also hold a real estate broker’s license, he asked if I would get access and walk through the home with him. I agreed, and we met in front of the home together. From the moment we started I knew it was going to be a disaster. The home was left in bad shape, indicating the former owner had been in some serious financial stress before they left: filthy, cracks in the drywall, structural issues that were clearly left unaddressed for many years, and more. I basically told them it was a money pit and too risky for me, but they should get a few good contractors to weigh in before making a decision. They did not buy the house.

I like to think that if I had been a real estate agent for a living, I might have tried to show them the bright spots, use some creativity to show them how with a little paint and some inexpensive fixes the place could look really great. And since it was in such bad shape, they would probably get it for a steal! I like to think that, but I know that isn’t the truth. It’s very hard to spend your career being the professional that clients rely upon to be risk averse and point out the red flags and worse-case scenarios, and then to suddenly just turn that all off and switch into positive sales mode with a happy face. We are all put here for a purpose, and mine is probably not to sell houses. It’s just not who I am now, and it would take a lot of retraining and re-educating to get me there, and even then it might not be the right fit for me.

The same goes for your real estate agent. Wonderful and experienced as they may be, and even if they have taken a class on title work and surveys or looked them over before, or on how the “standard” contract documents work together, switching from happy sales mode into a mindset where you are looking for red flags and problems, is very hard to do. This is because it’s not a main part of their job, and they are not fully trained to do it, just like our managing attorney was not fully trained to show a home for sale in the story above. Furthermore, if you expect your real estate agent to review parts of the contract or closing documents (other than the monetary closing statement they may be trained and required to review) and they do not feel comfortable doing it, either because it might constitute practicing law without a license (or similar violation of law in that jurisdiction) or because they simply don’t feel that is their role or that they are trained for it, you are putting your agent in an unfair position.

Often, we will see a survey that on its surface looks okay, but the Buyer is concerned about something and we need to negotiate an easement of some sort. Without a thorough review, you might pay much more than you need to or the sale might fall through completely. What if the Buyer breaches and cannot close but you are not quite ready to file suit and deal with that expense, time and effort?  Have your attorney review the documents and discuss your options…that’s what they were trained to do, and that’s what will protect you best and give you the most peace of mind that you are protecting your family.

 

In our next blog post, we plan to explore, “Not Getting Required Government, Utility or Fire District Inspections Completed in a Timely Manner” (#11 of the 15 Mistakes We See Home Sellers Make Most Often). We hope you find the information helpful.

If you would like to have your own lawyer to help you on your next home sale, just click here to sign up to be a client and pay nothing up front!

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St. Louis, MO 63105
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