FAQ

General Questions

General Questions

Why am I better off with a lawyer rather than just a real estate agent?

For many reasons and here are the two big ones. First, as lawyers, we can never represent both sides in a transaction.  We focus only on our clients and protecting their best interests. Real estate agents can (and do) represent both sides which creates an unavoidable conflict of interest.  Second, as lawyers, we are qualified and licensed to help you navigate the complexities of real estate transactions. We provide actual legal advice and analysis including custom contract drafting, review of title documents, instructing escrow agents, and reviewing closing documents. Real estate agents are only permitted to fill in the blanks on pre-printed forms, leaving you at greater risk of an unexpected problem down the road.

What sort of name is “WaLaw”?

WaLaw is short for Washington Lawyers Realty. Before we became real estate brokers, we were simply lawyers practicing in Seattle. We saw the value to our clients of providing real estate broker services, but we didn’t want to forget our role as lawyers. After all, a lawyer is held to a far higher standard than a broker – a standard that we always meet and usually exceed. So when it came time to name the brokerage, the choice was easy.

How is WaLaw able to offer such a low fee?

Ahh, the secret sauce you ask? It’s actually quite simple. We only work with highly motivated buyers and sellers who are willing to put skin in the game. Traditional agents work with anybody and waste an inordinate amount of time with clients who never result in a closed transaction. That means the small percentage of clients who actually close subsidize all the rest.

Not so for us. WaLaw buyer clients pay $500 up front so you know they’re not messing around. It also means they expect a high level of professional service which we’ve been providing since 2009. The balance of our flat fee is not due until the deal successfully closes.

We also focus on efficiency and offering the essential services buyers and sellers need and not the trivial stuff they don’t (remember refrigerator magnets and classified ads?). We don’t waste time doing home tours for every Tom, Dick, and Harry which means our staff can handle far more deals than the industry average. By giving everyone the same great and efficient service, we are able to keep costs low and our fees reasonable.

If you charge so much less, are real estate brokers overpaid?

Sometimes. There are different opinions on this but the fact remains that traditional agents often work without being paid because not every transaction closes. In order to make up for that unpaid time, they need to charge a premium to clients who do close. Accordingly, clients who close a transaction are helping subsidize all of the unpaid work their agent does for other clients.

Our business model seeks a very different result. We charge buyers an up front fee so that only people who are very serious hire us. Folks who just like to look at houses or who will only sell if they can get a pie-in-the-sky price will usually self-select away from us and go with a traditional agent.  And that’s a good thing because it means our clients don’t have to pay for our other clients.

Don’t lawyers complicate things?

Some do, but we don’t. At WaLaw, we think that being lawyers AND real estate agents simplifies the process for our clients. In a transaction this significant, we can provide the legal counsel for title review, contingency negotiation, and contract review without additional costs or time. That said, we also recognize our clients’ goal: To buy or sell a house. A combative lawyer can make that difficult. We balance the need to protect your interests against your desire to complete the transaction.

Is WaLaw for everyone?

For Sellers in a hot market like we have now, we pretty much are.  However, if you are a potential buyer wanting to look at houses but not ready to pull the trigger in the near future, then maybe not.  With us you have to come out of pocket up front and that’s not a great idea when there are plenty of agents who give home tours for free.

Also, buyers who are just getting started and don’t really know where they want to live or what sort of home they want to live in might be better served by a more traditional agent who can spend a lot of time helping them figure that out.  Our model is aimed more towards buyers who have made progress narrowing down the types of property they want and the general area. Our buyers take charge of the online search and when they’ve identified one or more homes with potential, we provide tours to see them in person. When they find a winner, we handle everything else from there.

Do I get personal attention with WaLaw?

Absolutely. WaLaw offers virtually the same service and access as a traditional agent. See our buyer and seller pages for more information.

How much can I save with WaLaw?

A lot. The actual amount depends on how much you are looking to buy or sell a home for. Check out our fee structure. The higher the price of the home you’re buying or selling, the larger our rebate will be.

How do I get started?

Call us at 206-357-4224, email us at marc@walawrealty.com, or fill out our contact form.

Buying Questions

Buying Questions

Do you give home tours?

Yes. Our flat fee includes 30 hours of home tours and an unlimited number of tours beyond that at $75 per hour. We do count travel time from our office and a typical tour of one house is about an hour. When touring multiple houses we can usually see anywhere from 2 to 5 houses per hour depending on how far apart they are.

Note, however, that we don’t provide tours until we’ve been formally engaged and our $500 up front fee has been paid.

I’m a buyer – how much money will I save?

A lot. The commission paid by a seller to a buyer’s agent is usually 3% of the sale price. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Whatever the commission, we rebate all of it to you at closing, minus the balance of our flat fee So, generally speaking, you save 3% of the sale price, minus our flat fee of $8,995. Go ahead and compare us to the competition. For a $700,000 home, you save $12,005. Consult our chart for more details on the money you can save buying with WaLaw.

I want to buy a house – what does your flat fee cover?

If you don’t mind searching online for houses that meet your criteria, then we provide everything you need from home tours to negotiating the deal. See our buyer page for more details.

Do you help buyers with homes being sold at foreclosure?

No, we don’t service foreclosure auction transactions.  There are significant legal risks to those deals so we do recommend that you consult an attorney beforehand.

Do you help buyers with REO homes?

Yes. An “REO” is a home where the bank bought it at the foreclosure auction (instead of selling it to some other bidder). Usually banks will list an REO home on the MLS and offer a commission to the buyer’s agent, so you’ll get a rebate from us. But that’s not all: REO transactions include the bank’s non-standard, custom addendum which tend to be extremely favorable for the bank at the buyer’s expense. Accordingly, it’s a very good idea to have a lawyer to protect your legal interests in these transaction so we’re a great fit.

Do you help buyers with short sales?

Yes. From the buyer’s perspective, a short sale is a lot like a regular sale. The difference is that it can be 90 days or more until closing. On top of that, there is no guarantee of a final approval, so buyers can wait around for months only to be told that the offer was rejected. That said, we are an excellent fit for short sale buyers because of our commission rebate and legal counsel throughout the transaction.

Why is the flat fee different for Buyers and Sellers?

Our fee for sellers is $7,995 and for buyers it is $8,995.  The buyer’s fee is higher because the current market is favorable to sellers and that means buyers, on average, require more time and energy to successfully purchase a home than a seller to sell a home.

Some buyers wait to engage us until they have found the home they want thus they expect their deal to be super easy.  We love it when that happens but experience  has shown us that our buyer clients end up buying a different home than the one they started with more often than not.  Sometimes they decide the house is priced too high when they see the comps or the house fails inspection.  Other times there is competition for the home and another buyer outbids them.   Accordingly, our fee has to contemplate this sort of probability.

Buyers also have to pay $500 of our fee up front while sellers don’t.  This is due in part to the seller’s market we’re in but mostly to encourage only serious buyers to hire us.  Our flat fee is too low to give free tours to everybody and anybody who wants one and an up front fee allows us to focus on qualified and motivated buyers.

Selling Questions

Selling Questions

I’m a seller – how much money will I save?

A lot. The typical commission charged by a “full service” listing broker is 3% of the sale price.  When you work with WaLaw, instead of paying that commission, we charge a flat fee of $7,995* and you save the difference! On a home worth $700,000, you will save up to $13,005.

Of course, there are cheaper ways to list on the MLS – as low as $500 – but you won’t get the services we provide either.  Go ahead and compare us to the competition.  We offer an affordable price for the most essential services you need and expect when selling your home.  Consult our chart for more details on how much money you can save selling with WaLaw.

* We charge a little more for homes priced at $1 million or more, see our fees page for more info.

How much extra work do I need to do to sell my home when I work with WaLaw?

Very little. We provide all of the same services as a traditional agent, the difference is how we charge for those services and, in one case, when they’re provided. Our flat fee includes a specific set of services which are included. If a seller wants something beyond those set services we can do it at an hourly rate of $75 per hour.  If it’s something purchased from a third party vendor (like a professional video of the house), we do it at cost and never mark anything up.

There are a couple of notable differences with us.  One is that we don’t come out to see the house or do a market analysis until after we’ve been engaged. This is for efficiency purposes so we don’t spend significant time on clients that never hire us.

The second concerns buyers without an agent that want to see the house. Most buyers will have their own agent to show them the house.  But, occasionally a person calls who doesn’t have an agent.  This presents an opportunity for our client to sell the house without having to pay a buyer’s agent commission.  To be fair, this doesn’t happen all that often but, when it does, it’s a homerun.  If our client doesn’t mind, they can let the person in for the tour.  Or, we can do it at our $75 hourly rate (they typically they take about an hour).

I want to sell my house – what does your flat fee cover?

Everything a savvy seller needs including professional high definition photography, consultation on getting your home ready for market, market analysis and advice on pricing strategy, and an open house. See our seller page for more details.

Do I have to pay a commission to the Buyer’s agent?

Yes and No.  Commissions are always negotiable and you do not have to offer a commission to the buyer’s agent if you don’t want to.    That said, our local MLS requires at least a nominal amount and we’ve seen as low as $250.

We usually recommend offering 2.5% or 3% so that agents are fully incentivized to show and sell the home.*  You are free to offer less but understand that at some point it may be counterproductive.  Offering less presents the risk that some agents will avoid showing the listing or will encourage their clients to pursue a different property instead.  There’s also the reality that it’s helpful to incentivize the buyer’s agent to keep their clients focused and on track as we work through inspection, appraisal, underwriting, and other matters.  Offering a low commission can risks diminishing that incentive.

* For homes priced above $1 million, it’s not uncommon from commission rates in our local area to be at 2.5% or lower and we subscribe to common practice at those price points.