Decision: Real Estate Attorney or Realtor with Attorney as seller

5 Replies


My realtor hasn't convinced me he's the best fit for my search for fixer uppers in Northern Virginia, and I recently found a property where the seller is a 60+ year old attorney of a moderately priced property that meets my criteria for primary residence.

In your opinion, what do I have to gain financially and experiencially from choosing to solely use a real estate attorney and the title companies and inspectors I've used in the past vs. using my realtor (i.e. facilitate the process and do paperwork)?

Thanks in advance!

Hi @Nicholas DeGaetani ,

It depends on your, goals, experience, and costs of these other professionals. Also, what type of attorney is the Seller? He might be a criminal defense lawyer, family attorney, tax attorney, etc. that doesn’t give him too much of an edge other than maybe knowing other attorneys. 

I’m a real estate agent in North Virginia and an investor. I also buy properties in MD, where I am not licensed, and sometimes I just go with my title company, sometimes I usedy my agent. 

As you can imagine, from having bought dozens of properties and participated in many transactions representing clients, I understand contracts and other legal formalities, so I don’t need to bother my attorney with these things. If you think you may need his/her help for drafting/reviewing a contract or other basic legal issues, you may be better off with an agent, since it will be probably cheaper for you (if the Seller is using an agent already) and he/she will be able to explain you everything you are signing. If you contacted the Seller directly, maybe skipping the agent may save you a few bucks, depending on your knowledge and how many hours of attorney work you need. 

Other than that, using an agent basically saves you time and headaches, which both are money, as well as adding another set of eyes looking for your best interest. 

Other reasons I use my agent in MD is for dealflow. In today’s market it is hard to find deals and working with an agent that has the pulse on the market and access to deals before they hit the market is key.

Good luck! 

A real estate agent is good for two things;

A) Getting access to properties and leads,

B) Negotiating on your behalf if you are a busy person or prone to anxiety,

C) Getting access to industry standard forms (which may or may not be sufficient)

A real estate agent cannot offer legal advice or help you understand potential pitfalls of legal documents. If an agent is trying to do that, that agent is in trouble with the Virginia State Bar or the bar of whatever state you are dealing with.

Ultimately, as the previous posted stated, it depends on your level of sophistication and goals as to whether you need a real estate agent.

If you dont think your agent is the best fit, you are likely not going to listen to their counsel anyways.  I have clients all the time that shoot themselves in the foot and I let them.  I tell them dont do X, or do Y...they dont take the advice then they put themselves in bad situations.  

Thanks guys for highlighting the benefits of realtor vs. lawyer - I'm sticking with a realtor for this project. 

I'm starting to ignore some of the (maybe good maybe bad) advise from my current realtor regarding a property that could go either way - tear down and rebuild or renovate. 

To confirm a renovation estimate and whether it makes sense to proceed or walk away I'm doing a walk through this Tuesday with the realtor's preferred contractor. @David Fernandez , how do you decide whether to renovate vs. tear down and build? I'm not well informed on build costs in NoVA but I'm fairly certain that renovation costs will be a lot less costly but with more headaches.

@Nicholas DeGaetani ,

I don’t decide what to do with a property when I find it. I know already what I’m looking for each type of exit strategy (buy and hold, flip, tear down, whole sale, retail sale) and then I go find them. Sometimes I may be in between two options, but definitively not between flip vs. tear down.

A reno and a tear down are two completely different animals. A reno can be as simple as painting and carpets to reconfiguring layouts, changing mechanicals, add sq. ft. to the house, or work on foundation/structural. In general, a reno should be completed in 3 months (large one) or less (up to ~2 weeks for an easy one). With a tear down, you are talking a different ball game in terms of timing (think carrying costs), financing, process,  permits, etc. 

If you’ve never done a tear down, I recommend you not doing it by yourself. If you’ve never done a flip, definitively don’t do a tear down, at least, without working with a very experience builder or someone who has done it before many times.