Q: We want to sell our home privately, instead of listing with a real estate agent. Does this change the work that a real estate lawyer has to do? Will the lawyer's fees be more or less expensive?
A: Yes, it increases the tasks the lawyer has to do, and therefore increases the legal fees associated with the deal. That said, whatever is spent on the lawyer is going to be a small fraction of what would be "spent" on the real estate commission.
For example, a six-per-cent commission on a $200,000 home means the commission would be $12,000 (plus taxes). A lawyer cannot accurately predict how much time handling such a transaction will take. However, a good estimate of the range of legal fees likely for the extra tasks described below is between $300 and $900. However, the lawyer will not work on a commission basis, which means that, even if the negotiations fail, he or she will still have a bill to be paid.
Real estate agents do a number of useful things for the parties in a real estate transaction. Their greatest value is in connecting buyer and seller.
If buyer and seller are already connected, then a lawyer can help complete the deal. First there must be agreement on price, deposit amount and closing date. Which of the chattels (appliances, curtains, chandeliers) are going with the house is another consideration. The lawyer can assist with these negotiations, if necessary providing the buffer that is important, especially on the issue of price.
Once the details are ironed out, the lawyer can create the agreement of purchase and sale for the parties to sign. That document is what is normally provided to the lawyers, who take the deal forward from there.
Another important consideration with no-agent deals is the quality of the information coming from the vendor about the state of the property. The agent helps prepare and provide a sheet called a vendor's property information statement. Without that sheet, the job is a little harder. A home inspection condition in the agreement of purchase and sale is essential in a no-agent deal. Surprises like faulty air conditioning or crumbling basements usually lead to immense frustration and sometimes to litigation.