Options for Legal Advice and Counsel
in Residential Real Estate Transactions

Client expectations vary widely when it comes to the scope of legal services being sought in a real estate transaction. Is the client seeking review/comment on a contract and nothing more? Comprehensive representation in the entire transaction? We offer several options as guidelines:

Option 1: Flat Fee – Review/Comment on Single Document (e.g., Contract or Title Commitment)

Option 2: Flat Fee – Contract Preparation (We Draft the Contract)

Option 3: Flat Fee – Custom Contract Addendum with Special Provisions for Buyer or Seller

Option 4: Flat Fee – Closing Document Preparation (Legal Documents Only)

Option 5: Flat Fee – Legal Representation in the Entire Transaction

Option 6: Hourly Fee – One-Hour Minimum Non-Refundable Retainer to Commence

Hiring a Lawyer instead of a Broker. There is a new idea that hiring a real estate attorney instead of a real estate broker is a way to get the same services by paying only a low flat fee instead of a brokerage commission. This is a myth. It is false for at least two reasons: (1) legal and brokerage services are not the same; and (2) if many hours of hard work need to be done then someone must be paid for that time, whether that person is a broker or a lawyer. There is no free lunch. The bottom line is this: hiring a lawyer is not a way to obtain full brokerage services without paying a real estate commission. One cannot get these same services by paying a low flat fee to a lawyer.

Legal Services are Different from Broker Services. Lawyers do not typically submit offers and counteroffers; list or show properties; arrange for surveys, inspections, appraisals, or repairs; or assist with financing. This office provides legal advisory and representation services only. We do not perform the full range of services that real estate brokers and agents provide. If you need this broader level of assistance then you should engage a full-service real estate broker.

Our Attorney Also has a Real Estate Broker’s License. However, this office is primarily a law firm. Our attorney does not offer full-service brokerage services. TREC rules require us to direct you to TREC’s Information about Brokerage Services at https://lonestarlandlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/IABS-1-0.pdf.

$450 Hourly Rate. Although we state certain flat-fee guidelines below, there is always the option of an hourly-rate billing arrangement. At our discretion, we decide to offer an hourly arrangement instead of a flat fee. This may be more appropriate and equitable in certain situations. In hourly billing, the client agrees to pay for the time it takes a qualified real estate lawyer to do what the client has asked him to do.


Clear Attorney-Client Agreement. Before engaging us for your transaction, we need to have a clear understanding of the extent and scope of legal services we are agreeing to provide. Each fee agreement is subject to our review and prior approval before acceptance. We accept or decline cases in our discretion. Please do NOT assume that certain fees will apply in your specific case. Our agreement is required. Please do NOT make payment until we have a clear attorney-client agreement.

Complex, Non-Standard, or Higher-Dollar Transactions. Since real estate transactions can vary considerably, quotes herein are guidelines only. We may, at our discretion, offer a fee arrangement that differs from these guidelines in cases of complex, non-standard, or higher-dollar transactions. In such situations we are likely to default to an hourly fee arrangement.

Use a Title Company for Escrow, Title Work, and Closings. We offer legal counsel, document preparation, and representation services only. We do not conduct in-office closings, escrow and distribute funds, or offer title insurance. (Another myth is that these services are free at a lawyer’s office.) An established title company is recommended.

Residential Transactions Only. Fees quoted herein relate to residential transactions only. Commercial transactions are case-by-case. Inquire.

Consult Us BEFORE Both Parties Sign the Contract. In Texas, the earnest money contract substantially controls a real estate transaction, the rights and remedies of the parties, special requirements for closing, and the content of closing documents. After the contract has been signed, the opportunity to affect these factors and modify the contract to the client’s advantage may have been lost. We may decline to accept cases where the contract has already been signed.

Guidelines for Limited One-Time Advice on Contracts, Title Commitments, Surveys, etc.

Review/Comment on an Individual Document. The review/comment process is available for residential TREC and TXR contracts and addenda as well as title commitments, surveys, closing documents, and other items. Our method is to go through the document and make comments and recommendations item-by-item. Does not apply to custom contracts.

Review/Comment is NOT Full Representation. A review/comment consultation is a detailed discussion but it is still a one-time event that is limited in time (one hour) and scope (the document being reviewed). Review/comment is a form of stand-alone legal consultation. It is not full representation in the entire transaction from contract through closing. After one hour of attorney time or after three business days (whichever comes first), the review/comment process automatically concludes.

Existing Homes Only. We do not review new construction contracts. These are usually non-negotiable by the builders except for price and other deal points. Attempting to negotiate legal terms is usually futile. We may, however, be available for a commission rebate arrangement.

Legal Fees for Review/Comment. Fees for review/comment are: usually $250 for a sales price of up to $999,999; $450 for a sales price from $1M up.

Stand-Alone Preparation of Contracts with No Additional Services

Contract Preparation. We are also available to prepare (not just review) earnest money contracts. Fees are $350 for a sales price of up to $999,999; $450 for a sales price from $1M up to $2M. Over $2M, inquire.

Format. Format of the contract we prepare is the TREC 1-4 contract reproduced in Word (so that you can easily amend it if needed) with suggested additional custom provisions (clearly highlighted) that are designed to enhance the position of buyer or seller, as the case may be.

Contract Preparation Does Not Include Custom Addenda. Special Provisions Addenda (discussed below) are not included in the above flat fees. These are separate add-ons that begin at $250 per addendum (template) or $350 (we prepare).

Excludes Negotiations. A flat fee for contract or addendum preparation is a one-time stand-alone fee. It does not include subsequent negotiations or future revisions.


Adding a Special Provisions Addendum. Standard contracts, whether TREC or TAR, are good contracts but are very limited in the way they can be customized to the client’s advantage. Adding a custom Special Provisions Addendum can significantly improve the client’s legal position beyond the TREC or TXR form (e.g., “as is” clauses for sellers, property condition disclosure clauses for buyers).

Creative Transactions. A special provisions addendum is especially important (even essential) in creative transactions such as wraparounds, seller-finance, and sub2s. Fees begin at $250 per addendum (template) or $350 (we prepare).

Legal Closing Documents Only (e.g., Warranty Deed, Note, and Deed of Trust)

There are many possibilities and combinations in this area that are too numerous to list here. Specific fee details for closing document packages are listed on the Fees & Policies page of the website, or inquire.

Excludes Involvement in Negotiations or Representation Versus the Other Party

Flat Fees for Full Advice and Counsel Throughout the Transaction

Sales Price up to $1M: $1,000. Advance non-refundable retainer of $500 with $500 due at closing. Three-hour cap. Excess hours billed at the hourly rate.

Sales Price $1M to $2M: $1,500. Advance non-refundable retainer of $750 with $750 due at closing. Three-hour cap. Excess hours billed at the hourly rate.

Sales Price over $2M: Inquire.

Retainers are Non-Refundable. The retainers mentioned above 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.

Fees are Per Transaction. All fees quoted in this section are flat fees 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 30 days.

One-Hour Minimum Non-Refundable Retainer

$450 Hourly Rate. Although we make every effort to quote flat fees, hourly-rate billing arrangements are more appropriate in certain complicated situations. At our discretion, we decide to offer an hourly arrangement instead of a flat fee.

One-Hour Minimum. Retaining us involves a non-refundable one-hour minimum to start, then $450 per hour thereafter. There is no partial-hour accounting for the first hour. The first hour is non-refundable. It is earned when paid. Advance additional retainer installments may be required moving forward since we do not send bills after the fact. Retainers may not reach zero unless the matter is concluding. Retainers must be kept current or legal services cease.


Yes. The traditional commission arrangement (the seller’s broker splits the commission with the buyer’s broker) is still available by agreement. It is just that a seller is no longer required to do this. Compensating the buyer’s representative is now an optional choice on the part of the seller. It is a matter of contract between the parties. It is likely that this practice will continue to be widespread because, on a practical level, it works well for everyone in the real world.


Because our attorney has a broker’s license, a partial commission rebate (net after taxes) may be available to buyers at closing but only if you use our firm for the entire transaction and you are not already represented by an agent or broker. In such cases, our fees are usually 1/3 of the total subject to a 1% minimum. A post-closing check is written to the client (net after taxes). The gross commission is assumed to be the customary 3% per side. These are guidelines and may be varied at our discretion. We will need to discuss and review the specifics before committing to this arrangement.

These apply to All Clients

Terms of Service. Our posted terms of service (see “Fees and Policies” on the website) apply to all clients without exception. By proceeding, you unconditionally accept these terms of service.

Customary Parameters are Assumed. Flat fees quoted above are guidelines based on our experience with similar transactions of the same type and category. In certain situations, at our discretion, we may choose to offer a prospective client a different fee arrangement than the flat fees quoted above. Real estate transactions can be unpredictable, so flexibility is required.

Online Assistance. The low flat fees mentioned are for online services and do NOT include in-person office meetings.

Limited Liability. In the case of limited services (i.e., not full representation in the entire transaction) the client agrees that our law firm shall have no professional liability whatsoever for portions of the transaction that were not handled or advised upon by us.




“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.”

“I have used the services of David Willis for over 10 years now for my real estate needs. He is the most accomplished attorney I have found. He has developed creative but sound solutions to many potential problems that I have encountered. He responds rapidly and as you know doing real estate improperly can cost you a ton. David Willis prevents those problems and assures you do it correctly.”

“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.”

“I found David to be a very knowledgeable and professional attorney who has a wealth of experience in real estate legal matters. He runs a very efficient and professional practice and it was a very pleasant experience working with his firm. The best part about working with him was how responsive he is and that he always responds to emails directly himself. Highly recommended!”

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