In the newest installment of our Legal Minutes video series, Betsy Urbance, Director of Legal Services at Illinois REALTORS®, takes you through the many legal and ethical issues REALTORS® face when representing a buyer in a multiple offer situation.
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The reluctant blogger is back again…and my issue du jour is to encourage parties to use attorneys along with their good agents in a residential real estate transaction. I am not writing this just because I am one, but because there are at least a couple other good reasons for doing so. I got a call from a friend last night and his co-worker was involved in a messed up deal and needed assistance. My friend (a doctor with a license of his own) suggested that the real estate agent should “fix this.” I believe the issue was a matter of contract interpretation and there were opposing views about the language in the contract. This is not brokerage folks. This is legal stuff. I suggested to my doctor friend that his co-worker (I believe the buyer in the transaction) needed some legal advice about what the buyer’s options were under the language of their agreement. I can only hope the language in question was not from the pen (or keyboard) of the buyer’s real estate agent. It is a good idea for real estate agents to recommend their clients get legal advice no matter where you live (even if it is not customary).
Think about it. The buyer is making a huge investment; for many maybe the biggest one they will ever make. The seller wants to make sure he gives good title and there won’t be any pre- or post-closing surprises. These can be costly. Usually post closing surprises are more expensive than the ones that can be ironed out before closing.
Agents can protect themselves and their clients by recommending good attorneys for their brokerage clients. Attorneys have licenses that allow them to advise on legal matters and to draft legal and binding documents on behalf of their clients. Agents have licenses to advise on brokerage, marketing and negotiating matters with regard to the sale or rental of real estate. The agents are the experts on the market. The attorneys are the experts on the contracts that bind them. (Or at least they are the ones with the license to draft them and help them understand the provisions). By recommending attorneys to their common clients to handle legal matters that exist in real estate deals agents and brokers can put the onus on the person with the license to handle the legal aspects of the transaction and can avoid charges of the unauthorized practice of law. This is always important but especially in these crazy markets where short sales and foreclosures abound, it is ever more important to have the attorneys for sellers and buyers involved early in the process…maybe even before “attorney approval.”