Representation in Real Estate Transactions

Our approach to real estate transactions is to represent buyers and sellers in the entire transaction, from contract through closing. This is the traditional way that real estate lawyers have worked with their buyer and seller clients. It insures that the client’s interests are fully represented throughout the process.

In recent years, more inquirers are seeking only partial counsel with regard to parts of the transaction – review/comment on the earnest money contract, for example. We are open to this but only as our schedule permits. Prospective clients seeking full representation in the entire transaction are given priority. As our caseload permits, however, we may offer the following types of partial representation and counsel:

(1) review/comment consultation on an unsigned TREC or TAR contract;
(2) review/comment consultation on the title commitment or survey;
(3) review/comment consultation on the closing documents;
(4) legal closing documents (e.g., deed, note, and deed of trust) for a transaction that is ready to close.

Consult Us Before Signing Anything – The Importance of the Contract. In Texas, the contract substantially controls the transaction, the rights and remedies of the parties, any special requirements for the closing, and the content of the closing documents including the deed. After signing, the opportunity for a real estate attorney to modify the contract to the client’s advantage has likely been lost, a fact which may significantly disadvantage the client for the remainder of the transaction. Accordingly, we do not accept cases where the contract has already been signed.

Online Process for Consultations. All of our initial consultations are now handled entirely online. It is not necessary to set a specific appointment day or time. Consultations go into our queue in order of payment. Turnaround time is usually two or three business days from the time we receive all necessary information and background documents along with payment from the client. Office visits are not included in the online flat fees quoted.

Limited Representation Agreement. In cases where we agree to provide partial services such as a one-time review/comment consultation, the client will be required to sign a release stating that we are not liable for portions of the transaction in which we were not involved. The potential liability issues for a lawyer who engages in partial representation/counsel are significant and we must be mindful of these.

Our Attorney is Also a Real Estate Broker. Even though our attorney is also licensed as a real estate broker, our firm does not offer full brokerage services. We do not show properties; arrange for a survey, inspections, appraisals, or repairs; conduct negotiations; or assist with obtaining financing. If you need this higher level of assistance then you are advised to consult a full-service real estate broker for which the usual percentage will likely be charged.

In other words, using our law firm is not an effective means of getting the same services as an agent or broker would provide but at lesser fees. While there is some overlap, legal services and brokerage services are different functions.

When we offer legal counsel on a transaction, we assume you will have an agent or broker for such tasks as writing contracts, negotiations, arranging inspections, etc. Our job on the contract is limited to performing the legal function (for example, offering legal review/comment and other legal support.

Please review TREC’s Information on Brokerage Services (IABS) at https://lonestarlandlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/IABS-1-0.pdf

Commission Rebate May be Available. A partial commission rebate (net after taxes) may be available if you use our firm from the beginning and you are not already represented by an agent or broker. This option is available only to persons experienced in real estate transactions (professional investors and the like) who are willing and able to do a substantial amount of their own contract drafting, negotiations, and transactional footwork. In such cases, our fees are one third of the total payable commission amount subject to a 1% minimum.

When there is a commission rebate, a post-closing check is written to the client for the rebate (net after taxes). As to the amount of the gross commission, it is assumed and stipulated to be the customary 3% if there is another broker on the transaction, and 6% if we are the only broker on the transaction. This applies unless otherwise agreed in writing in advance.

Legal Documents Only. Some clients do not need representation or counsel at all when it come to a real estate transaction – they just want to order legal documents (e.g., deed, note, and deed of trust) for a quick closing.

We’re glad to do this. We prepare documents for many types of transactions. Fees vary – inquire or send a copy of your contract and we will provide a quote. Note that in these cases we are document preparers only and do not offer in-office closings. We recommend using a title company for these.

Residential Earnest Money Contract Review/Comment

This option assumes that you have an unsigned TREC earnest money contract that is already prepared and ready to present to us for review and comment upon. We provide our comments and recommendations item by item. Fees are:

Review/Comment on Residential Real Estate Contracts (up to 1 hour): $450 for a sales price of up to $499,999; $550 for a sales price of $500,000 to $999,999; $650 for a sales price of $1M to $1.499M; $750 for a sales price of $1.5M up to $1.99M; for a sales price over $2M, fees are $950 and up – inquire.

This paragraph-by-paragraph review/comment is available online for unsigned TREC and TAR contracts only. Trust transactions or other complex transactions may incur additional fees. Partial representation/counsel such as this is accepted at our discretion. The flat fee quoted extends up to one hour of attorney time. Extended services in this area past the initial review/comment are $350 per hour, although representation in the entire transaction (strongly recommended) may be offered at a flat fee.

Adding a Special Provisions Addendum to a Residential Contract

A Special Provisions Addendum is an all-around excellent idea for either party. Standard contracts, whether TREC or TAR, may be good contracts but are limited in the sorts of clauses and provisions that can be accommodated on a custom basis. Adding a custom Special Provisions Addendum solves this problem and further clarifies the obligations of the parties. This method leaves the standard form intact while clearly showing what special provisions are being agreed to. In the case of the seller, for example, this would include a more extensive and effective “as is” clause than is found in the standard TREC or TAR form. Our seller’s addendum also provides specific “as is” wording that will be included in the deed to the buyer at closing, which is critical. Fees for a Special Provisions Addendum are in addition to the fee for review/comment on the contract:

$350 for a sales price of up to $500,000; $450 for a sales price of up to $1M; $550 for a sales price up to $1.5M; $750 for a sales price up to $2.0M; and $950 for a sales price in excess of $2.0M.

Policies Regarding Contract Review/Comment Consultations

Standard Contracts. Flat fees quoted for review/comment apply only to unsigned standard TREC, TAR, and/or MLS forms, contracts, and addenda. We are occasionally asked to review entirely custom contracts, out-of-state forms, investment seminar forms, or documents obtained from the internet in order to determine whether they would be valid in Texas. We do not offer this service.

Scope of Review/Comment Consultations. A review/comment consultation (for example, review/comment on a proposed earnest money contract) is a detailed and thorough discussion but it is still a one-time event. It is not full representation in the entire transaction.

After one hour of attorney time or after three days (whichever comes first), the consultation automatically concludes. If one wishes broader representation, a review/comment consultation would not be the appropriate choice. Instead, the client should request representation and counsel in the entire transaction.

Review/Comment is Not a Total Re-Write. If a contract is significantly flawed, deficient, incomplete, or incompetently written, then it must be replaced not reviewed. Low review/comment flat fees do not apply in such cases. Clearly more attorney time is involved in creating a custom document, so higher fees can be expected.

Review/Comment Consultations Do Not Include Brokerage Functions. If the client does not have an agent or broker, we need to be clear in advance that realtor-type services are not included in our contract review/comment legal consultation or in any other legal services that we offer in a real estate transaction. We offer legal services exclusively. Utilizing our firm is not a less-expensive substitute for a full-service broker or agent.

Reasonableness Standard. As is the case with all our flat fees, a reasonableness standard applies. If a task substantially exceeds the customary scope, time, and extent of work anticipated, then it is our option to adjust the flat fee, switch to hourly fees, or decline the job altogether.

Review/Comment on Title Commitment, Survey, or Closing Documents

Aside from contract review/comment, we may also be able to offer a similar review as to your title commitment, survey, or closing documents. Fees are: $350 for a sales price of up to $499,999; $450 for a sales price of $500,000 to $999,999; $650 for a sales price of $1M to $1.499M; $750 for a sales price of $1.5M up to $1.99M; for a sales price over $2M, fees are $950 and up – inquire.

Representation in the Entire Transaction: Options

Legal Services for Entire Transaction – You HAVE an Agent or Broker

As a general rule, our compensation is one-third of the commission amount payable at closing (subject to a 1% minimum) unless specifically provided otherwise in writing in advance. Retainers discussed below are paid in advance as flat fees (not subject to hourly accounting), are non-refundable, and are not contingent upon whether or not the transaction successfully closes. If the transaction does not close, nothing further is owed.
1. Fees if You are the SELLER and ARE Represented by an Agent or Broker
Sales Price up to $600,000 – $750 advance non-refundable retainer plus an additional $750 payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $601,000 to $1,100,000 – $1,000 advance non-refundable retainer plus an additional $750 payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $1,100,000 to $2,999,999 – $1,500 advance non-refundable retainer plus an additional $750 payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $3,000,000 and up – Inquire

2. Fees if You are the BUYER and ARE Represented by an Agent or Broker

Sales Price up to $600,000 – $750 advance non-refundable retainer plus an additional $750 payable by Buyer at closing

Sales Price of $601,000 to $1,100,000 – $1,000 advance non-refundable retainer plus an additional $750 payable by Buyer at closing

Sales Price of $1,100,000 to $2,999,999 – $1,500 advance non-refundable retainer plus an additional $750 payable by Buyer at closing

Sales Price of $3,000,000 and up – Inquire

Legal Services for Entire Transaction – You do NOT HAVE an Agent or Broker

Our role is strictly legal in nature in this type of transaction. We do not stand in or substitute for a real estate agent or broker or perform those services. Our compensation is one-third of the commission amount payable at closing (subject to a 1% minimum) unless specifically provided otherwise in writing in advance.

Retainers discussed below are paid in advance as flat fees (not subject to hourly accounting), are non-refundable, and are not contingent upon whether or not the transaction successfully closes. If the transaction does not close, nothing further is owed.

Our assistance to clients who are not represented by an agent or broker is available only to professional real estate investors and others with a superior knowledge of transactions and contracts. The client must be able to competently do much of his own primary work (normally the duty of an agent or broker) himself, including preparing and negotiating his own contracts, etc.

Doing much of the primary contract and ground work is how the client earns a commission rebate. Our role is to offer the usual range of legal support to the client as the client (for the most part) conducts his own transaction.

Retainers mentioned below are paid in advance as non-refundable flat fees that are not subject to hourly accounting and are not contingent upon whether or not the transaction successfully closes. If the transaction does not close, however, nothing further is owed. Advance retainers are per property and per transaction (i.e., a single retainer does not cover multiple offers, properties, or transactions). Regardless of outcome, all retainers of this type expire after 60 days.

Note that the following options are available only if the TREC or TAR contract is not yet signed and the client is not already represented by a broker or agent.

1. Fees if You are the SELLER and are NOT Represented by an Agent or Broker

Sales Price up to $600,000 – $750 advance non-refundable retainer, credited against one-third of commission payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $601,000 to $1,100,000 – $1,500 advance non-refundable retainer, credited against one-third of commission payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $1,100,000 to $2,999,999 – $2,250 advance non-refundable retainer, credited against one-third of commission payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $3,000,000 and up – Inquire

2. Fees if You are the BUYER and ARE NOT Represented by an Agent or Broker

Sales price up to $$600,000 – $750 non-refundable advance retainer credited against one-third of commission payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $601,000 to $1,100,000 – $1,000 non-refundable advance retainer credited against one-third of commission payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $1,100,000 to $2,999,999 – $1,500 non-refundable advance retainer credited against one-third of commission payable by Seller at closing

Sales Price of $3,000,000 and up – $2,500 non-refundable advance retainer credited against one-third of commission payable by Seller at closing

Essentially, the above two options are an opportunity to get full legal advice and legal support plus (usually) a commission rebate (net after taxes, payable after closing) so long as you are willing and able to represent yourself on brokerage-related tasks (including contract preparation and negotiation) during the transaction. Please do not enter into this arrangement with the expectation that we are going to be your full-service broker at a discounted rate.

Do you need a consultation before proceeding?

If you are undecided about which action to take, or need to discuss your legal options before proceeding, then a paid consultation with our attorney is likely your best first step. A consultation provides the opportunity to discuss the specific circumstances of your case and review any existing documents that are involved. Our attorney can then make an informed recommendation on what to do next.

Consultations may now be handled online, a popular process with clients since the discussion is unrushed and the client has a written email record of the legal advice given. It may supplemented by an optional phone or video call after legal issues are first discussed and analyzed by email, so we will need basic fact information and relevant documents before discussing a case by phone. More detail on our consultation process and fees are described at https://lonestarlandlaw.com/online-consultation.

Review from a Real Estate Seller

“I hired David Willis to help review all the paperwork for my parents when they sold their home. The email based sign up and review process was extremely efficient and each request I sent was handled very quickly. David worked closely with the real estate agents and verified that everything was in order before my parents signed any of the documents. He also arranged for a special clause to be added to both the contract and warranty deed that added extra legal protection in the deal. I selected the “full representation” option and feel it was worth it for the thoroughness and peace of mind factors.”

Review from a Title Company Attorney

“I’ve been an Austin real estate attorney and title closing office for almost 30 years, having relied on David Willis for specialized documents and consultations. His service is responsive, efficient, and cost effective. My team will continue to count on David’s services.”

Our online legal expertise saves valuable time while preserving first-rate quality

Board-Certified, Top-Rated Attorney with 40 Years Experience in Texas Real Estate Law and Asset Protection