Lawyers & Realtors: Can They Play Nicely Together?

Lawyers and realtors each have specific roles to play in the sale of any house, and each brings a particular set of skills and expertise to the table. When they work together as a team, their client gets the best of both worlds.  

The realtor traditionally initiates the process by bringing together the buyer and seller and assisting with the negotiations as to the price and, perhaps, some of the most important terms. The lawyer then takes over, negotiating all of the specific details that will be provided in the contract, reviewing title, resolving any impediments to the closing and drafting the deed and any other ancillary documents required.

Realtors are usually very familiar with current market conditions in the geographical area in which they operate and the prices that other homes have been sold for. They are therefore in the best position to advise their clients as to what a “fair price” for a particular house would be.

Attorneys, on the other hand, are typically brought in AFTER the price has been agreed upon and devote their time and expertise to ensuring title to the property is validly conveyed and to avoiding risks. Lawyers are more prone to be careful about not having something go wrong after the deal has closed, and making sure that the client is being protected from any unforeseen risks that could arise in the future, while realtors generally focus on ensuring that their clients don’t “lose the deal”.  

This difference of perspective, coupled with some lawyers being resentful of the fact that realtors make far more money than lawyers on any individual transaction, can sometimes cause some friction between the two. What lawyers must remember is that realtors may only close a handful of sales during the year and must spend most of their time showing people houses that they don't buy, while a lawyer gets paid for almost everything he/she does. The lawyers who understand this and are not resentful, but welcome the assistance of brokers (known in the industry as “Broker Friendly Lawyers”), realize that realtors often possess knowledge of certain aspects of the local market or have relationships with neighbors that they do not, and that their clients will benefit by mutual cooperation between the lawyer and realtor.

We recently represented a seller in a transaction where a fence was not situated within the designated property line. When the title company raised it as an exception, we knew to solve the problem by drafting a Boundary Agreement, but we also knew that the neighbor might be intimidated and refuse to sign it. Since the realtor was familiar with the neighborhood and the people who live there, we asked if she knew the neighbor and she did! She was therefore able to establish a level of comfort that we would not have been able to do (Can you believe that some people don’t trust lawyers?), got the agreement signed and the transaction was closed without delay; an example of how lawyers and realtors can work together!