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In the wake of the recent settlement between the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the landscape of home buying is undergoing a significant shift. With the focus now on empowering buyers with more flexibility and transparency, there’s a growing opportunity for homebuyers to rethink their approach to representation in real estate transactions.

The NAR settlement, which addresses antitrust concerns related to practices in the real estate industry, has prompted a reevaluation of the traditional roles of real estate agents in home purchases. One key takeaway from this settlement is the newfound freedom for buyers to negotiate terms and fees more openly. Prior to the settlement, sellers paid the buyer’s agent and buyers had no role in negotiating the commission structure. Buyers are not bound to pay an agent or agree to hire the seller’s agent to make an offer on a home.

Considering these changes, there’s a compelling case to be made for homebuyers to consider alternatives to traditional real estate agents, with hiring an attorney emerging as a particularly attractive option. Here’s why:

Legal Expertise and Advocacy

While real estate agents provide valuable services, including market insights and property search assistance, they may lack the legal expertise necessary to navigate the intricacies of purchase agreements and negotiations effectively. Attorneys, on the other hand, are trained legal professionals who specialize in contract law and can provide expert guidance throughout the home buying process.

By hiring an attorney to represent them, homebuyers can benefit from dedicated legal advocacy tailored to their specific needs and interests. Attorneys can review purchase agreements, negotiate key terms, and ensure that buyers’ rights are protected every step of the way.

Cost Savings

One of the most significant advantages of hiring an attorney over a traditional real estate agent is the potential for substantial cost savings. Consider this: at a standard 3% commission, which is what a buyer’s agent typically receives from the seller, purchasing a $1 million home could result in a $30,000 payout to the buyer’s agent.

In contrast, an attorney could provide comparable services, including purchase agreement review and negotiation assistance, for a fraction of that amount. By opting for legal representation instead of a traditional agent, homebuyers can keep more money in their pockets while still ensuring a smooth and legally sound transaction.

Transparent Fee Structure

Real estate agents typically charge a commission based on the sale price of the property, often around 3% for the buyer’s agent. This commission is typically paid by the seller but can indirectly impact the buyer through higher purchase prices.

In contrast, lawyers often charge fees based on an hourly rate or a flat fee for specific services. This fee structure tends to be more transparent, allowing buyers to know exactly what they’re paying for and avoiding surprises at closing.

Long-term Value

While the upfront cost of hiring a lawyer may seem higher than simply paying a commission to a real estate agent, it’s essential to consider the long-term value of legal representation.

A lawyer’s expertise can help buyers avoid costly mistakes and legal pitfalls that could arise during the transaction or after closing. By ensuring that the purchase agreement is legally sound and all necessary due diligence is conducted, lawyers can help protect buyers from potential liabilities and disputes down the line, ultimately saving them money in the long run.

Negotiation Power

In today’s competitive real estate market, buyers are constantly seeking ways to make their offers stand out. By choosing to work with an attorney rather than a traditional agent, buyers can leverage their negotiating power in unique and compelling ways.

For instance, rather than asking for the buyer’s agent’s commission to be paid as a closing cost by the seller, buyers can present themselves as more attractive candidates by proposing to cover legal fees instead and that the seller is only responsible for the seller’s agent’s commission. This not only demonstrates a willingness to take on responsibility but also underscores the buyer’s commitment to a fair and transparent transaction.

Conclusion

The recent NAR settlement has ushered in a new era of opportunity and empowerment for homebuyers. With the freedom to negotiate terms and fees more openly, buyers now have the flexibility to explore alternative forms of representation beyond traditional real estate agents.

By hiring an attorney to represent them in real estate transactions, homebuyers can benefit from expert legal guidance, cost savings, and enhanced negotiation power. In an increasingly competitive market, choosing the right representation can make all the difference – and opting for legal expertise may be the smartest move a buyer can make.

By: Ted Schneider, Esq.

About the Author
Theodore J. Schneider practices in the areas of business and corporate transactions, employment law counseling, municipal and public law, real estate and land use, and homeowner associations. Ted began his legal career in 2002 when he joined the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, L.L.P. before relocating to Ventura County to join his father in practice.