What to do when selling real estate – use an attorney or a realtor?

UPDATED: Jan 14, 2013

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What to do when selling real estate – use an attorney or a realtor?

We have a Durable Power of Attorney for my father-in-law’s condo. While fixing it up to sell it we have been approached by 3 different neighbors interested in buying it before we even list with a realtor. One advised using a real estate attorney vs. a realtor. What services can I expect from an attorney and how much would they charge? A flat fee or per hour?

Asked on January 14, 2013 under Real Estate Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Real estate attorneys and realtors do *very* different  things.

A realtor's primary job is to market and sell the property. That's not  to say that the realtor might not have a standard of form of contract they use or have some legal knowledge, but fundamentally, a realtor is a salesperson.

An attorney job is to structure a deal in a way that maximizes benefit to his client, review the proposed transaction for risk, resolve any overhanding legal problems, and draft legal documents. While an attorney may have some ability to help sell or market the property--such as if he has other clients or connections who purchase similar property--the lawyer's main job is the law, not the sale.

If you already have people you think are likely to offer you a reasonable price, then yes, a lawyer may be better for you--the lawyer can negotiate the deal, draft the agreement of sale, work on the closing, and help with any legal issues (such as if the community or condo association has a lien for unpaid fees); with several possible buyers in hand, you may not need a realtor's marketing/sales  help.

There is no way to generalize what, or how (i.e. flat fee or hourly rate) an attorney will charge--there  is no standard, and attorneys vary widely in their rates and charges. The best idea is to shop around for a lawyer--there is no reason why you can't ask prospective lawyers their fees or negotiate fees with attorneys.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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