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 clients pay $1,000 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 (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. While agents disagree, the fact is that 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 actually do close. So if you close your transaction, you are helping to pay your agent for all of the unpaid work he has done for other clients. If you don’t close your transaction but used the services of an agent, then your agent was definitely underpaid.

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?

Certainly not. First, you have to come out of pocket up front with us but not with a traditional agent. That’s not a good idea for buyers who just want to tour a bunch of houses or sellers who want to list their house at a dream price and don’t mind if it doesn’t sell. Those folks should call Windermere. Second, the big difference for buyers is that we don’t search for houses for you. Instead, our buyers take charge of the online search for homes. Once they’ve narrowed their list we provide tours to see homes in person.

WaLaw is best for people who want to save money, get better protection with legal representation, and are happy to put some effort into buying or selling their home.

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 your buying or selling the larger our rebate will be.

How do I get started?

Call us at 206-357-4224 or contact us.

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. Travel time from our office is counted 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 how far apart they are.

Note, however, that we don’t provide tours until we’ve been formally engaged and our $1,000 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 $7,995. Worried you’re not getting all the services you’ll need? Go ahead and compare us to the competition. For a $600,000 home, you save $10,000. 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 everything you need. 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. It’s a very good idea to have a lawyer as well to protect your legal interests in the 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. But we are an excellent fit for short sale 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, you pay us a flat fee of $7,995 (a little more if you are selling a home valued at $1 million or more). And you save the difference! On a home worth $600,000, you will save up to $10,005. 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.

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

Not much. 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 outside of those set services we can do it 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 don’t mark anything up.

A couple notable differences with us are 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.

Secondly, tours for unrepresented buyers are not part of our standard services. The vast majority of buyers have their own agents who will show the home, so most of our seller clients never have this come up.  But, occasionally a person calls who would like to see the house and doesn’t have an agent.  This presents an opportunity for our client to do a deal and not pay the buyer’s agent commission.  If our client doesn’t mind they can let the person in for the tour.  If they prefer, we can do it on an hourly basis at $75/hour (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 that first weekend on the market. See our seller page for more details.

Do you help sellers with short sales?

Yes. In a short sale, the bank accepts less than the full amount owed on the property, and the bank pays the commission. Because so many sellers are facing a short sale, we’ve expanded our practice — and adjusted our fee arrangement — to include these listings. Accordingly, our clients get their property on the market AND a short sale negotiator — our law firm Blackmon Holmes. See our short sale page for more information.

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

No, you can always go For Sale By Owner (FSBO) and you don’t have to offer a commission for a buyer’s agent. However, to be published in the Northwest MLS which services most of Western Washington then you have to offer at least a nominal commission. There are other brokerage companies that will take listings with very low commissions which you are free to use.  WaLaw Realty, by contrast, has a policy that we won’t take on a listing where the seller offers less than 2.5% .* This is not because we think buyer’s agents are necessarily worth 2.5% or 3%. Some are and, no doubt, some aren’t. Rather, it because of the risk that some agents will avoid showing their clients listings with lower commission offerings or will actively discourage their clients from offering on the property.  There’s also the reality that it’s desirable to incentivize the buyer’s agent to keep their clients focused and on track as the deal works through inspection, appraisal, underwriting and other similar hurdles. Offering a low commission takes away from that incentive. Accordingly, we think it is counterproductive to offer a commission below 2.5% if the seller desires to get full market value via a listing in the MLS.  We also do not want to be perceived as a discount broker by other agents and brokers that we encounter and have worked hard to avoid that distinction.

* 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.