Counsel to Real Estate Buyers and Sellers
Purchase and Sale Agreements
Written and Reviewed
James Robert Deal, Attorney
Almost everyone who buys or sells real estate in New York sees a lawyer. Few Washington buyers and sellers see a lawyer.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? A lot of people disparage attorneys as outrageously expensive. In their disparagement they do not complete this sentence: The cost of consulting with counsel is expensive compared to _________________. Attorneys are expensive, you say? Compared to what? Compared to NOT seeing an attorney? How expensive can it be if you choose NOT to see an attorney and miss something serious that costs you a lot of money, and which thing an attorney could easily have identified and protected you against. As I have discussed elsewhere, there as issues that you don’t even know exist in buying or selling property. Someone has said: “There are things you don’t know that you don’t even know you don’t know.” And these things can cost you a lot. And in real estate litigation, even if you win, you are rarely are awarded the full cost of your attorney fees.
It is true that in about 80 percent of the cases here in Washington things turn out just fine. But it is equally true that with the other 20 percent, serious and expensive problems arise, problems which could have been avoided had buyer or seller consulted with an attorney .
Given the large size of the purchase price and the monthly payments and the large size of the damages and legal costs which could be incurred if something did go wrong, the relative cost of a legal consultation turns out not to be expensive at all, in fact, to be quite inexpensive–compared with the alternative.
If you fail to consult with an attorney before making major decisions with major legal ramifications, you are making a legal decision on your own and acting as your own lawyer. We lawyers have a saying: “A person who represents himself as lawyer has a fool for a client.” That translates to: If you are acting as your own lawyer and make a mistake, you have no one to blame but yourself.”
I find it odd that some people, who are otherwise very prudent–keeping good tires on their cars, buying medical insurance, insuring their home–who, when it comes to legal insurance, choose to “go bare.”
I charge around $300 for a first consultation. That’s the minimum cost to become a client of our office.
For us to take you on a new client, we must get you to fill out an intake form, get to know you and come to understand the legal issues you face. We will ask general questions to determine if there is some other legal problem you might have which might complicate your real estate transaction. We must get to understand you and your immediate real estate legal situation. We have to put you into Timeslips, Quickbooks, Outlook, and other programs. We have to give you a client number and create a client file. And then we have to store your file at our PS Storage warehouse for ten years.
When you buy and sell property or take any other major financial step, you are not the only one who is put at risk. Your spouse, your children, maybe your parents, the charitable organizations you would have left money to. You are generally acting as quasi-trustee for several other parties.
There is a compounding effect when it comes to major financial errors. If you make an error that costs you $5,000 today, that is not the end of it. That $5,000 could have become:
- $10,000 in seven years,
- $20,000 in 14 years,
- $40,000 in 21 years, and
- $80,000 in 28 years.
Therefore, I cannot in good conscience advise any buyer or seller to buy or sell with out legal counsel.
Because a real estate transaction is one of the biggest financial moves you will take in life, you should take it seriously, bear the risks in mind, and see a lawyer.
But how convenient is it to consult with a lawyer in the evening or on a weekend when law offices are closed and your signature is requested?
If you can’t get in to see us before it is time to sign the contract, then tell your real estate agent to add these magic words to your purchase and sale agreement:
“Mary Smith’s commitment to buy/sell
is subject to review by her lawyer
within five business days.”
Brokers even have a form specifically designed to give the parties several days to consult with an attorney before the contract becomes binding.
We look forward to being of service to you.
James Robert Deal Attorney
WSBA # 8103
James at James Deal dot com