3 Big Differences Between Real Estate Agents and Lawyers

We are, first and foremost, lawyers. As lawyers, we are able to – and legally required to – provide representation to our clients that is far more sophisticated than what you’ll get with a real estate agent.

1. Duties to clients

The vast majority of real estate agents are ethical and do their best. But by law, their duties to clients are limited, so there’s a lot of gray area they can work within.

For example, an agent can represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. That’s weird, since a buyer’s interest is in direct conflict with the seller’s interests – one wants the lowest possible price while the other benefits from a higher price.

And, the agent can “self-deal,” which means she can represent the seller AND buy the property herself. This isn’t in the best interest of the seller by any means.

On the other hand, attorneys have clear and unequivocal duties to their clients that cannot be compromised by the lawyer’s self interest. And lawyers certainly won’t (and can’t) represent both the buyer and seller. If an attorney has been hired by a seller to assist with the sale. The client’s interests must be paramount, without any question or doubt.

Who would you rather have on your side?

2. Legal counsel

Real estate agents are only authorized to engage in the limited practice of law. Basically, this means that they can fill in pre-printed forms that were drafted and approved by a lawyer.

Agents are not supposed to provide legal counsel to a client, so they’re not authorized (or trained) to explain contracts and legal terms to you. Have a unique situation and need some language added to a contract? They’re not authorized to do that either.

When it comes to title issues, agents aren’t equipped to help you either. They can’t give clients any opinion on the condition of title or the significance of the information in a preliminary title commitment. That puts BOTH buyer and seller at risk that an unrecognized problem could come back to bite you months or years down the road.

As lawyers we have the experience and training to practice law. Got a question about your contract? We can answer it. Concerned about an issue or aspect of the transaction? We can deal with it. Worried about a defect in title? We can address it.

You’re looking at a purchase worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s common sense to hire a lawyer who is able, authorized, and obligated to fully protect your legal interests.

3. History and culture

Historically, agents were salespeople just like the guys who sell cars. Remember Glengarry Glen Ross and the “motivational speech” [NSFW] Alex Baldwin gives in it? To real estate agents, buyers and sellers are nothing more than “leads” to be closed.  Even today, the buyer’s agent is officially known as the “selling agent.”

Lawyers have always provided representation, period. We’ve never been paid to convince our clients to buy something.

If you’ve gotten this far and you’re still not convinced, we’re probably not a great fit for you. But if you’ve been nodding throughout this page, then give us a call.