You're a Realtor - Not a Lawyer

Real Estate Agent with Online Real Estate Agent Training

real estate classesOne of the first rules of real estate should be, "You're a Realtor, not a lawyer."  Yet I don't recall anyone making a point to say that.

Every Jurisdiction is Different

There are some states and jurisdictions that use licensed lawyers to negotiate the terms and conditions for their respective buyers and sellers.  The Realtor is responsible for helping the buyer find the right place or helping the seller sale their property.  Once the house is found, the client is handed over to a lawyer to write and negotiate the offer.

Other jurisdictions require the Realtor to write and negotiate the offer on behalf of their client.

If you are in a jurisdiction where you negotiate on behalf of your client, be careful to stay in your lane.

Know the Contract

You should know the contract inside and out.  That may sound like common sense, but it's surprising how many real estate agents don't know what's in the contract.

You know they don't know the contract because when you're in the middle of a transaction with them, they try to tell you incorrect information.  They usually quote what was in the contract ten years ago about what your client can and can't do.

When the agent doesn't know the contract, it's highly unlikely that their client will know the contract.  Although buying and selling a house is a huge financial decision, it's incredible how many people don't read the contract.

Once the transaction starts heading south, then everyone starts reading.  By then the damage has already been done.

Contracts are constantly revised.  Make sure you stay on top of those changes.  Thankfully, many jurisdictions require a course on contracts as part of their Continuing Education requirements.

Don't Write Your Own Language

Virtually everything that can happen in a real estate transaction is covered in the contract or an accompanying Addendum.  In my jurisdiction our Addenda covers everything from Sale of Home Contingency to Pre-Settlement Occupancy to delayed HVAC inspection.

Check with your Association to see if they have what you are looking for.

You are not a lawyer, so don't try and write your own language.  If the situation you are dealing with is so unique, talk to your broker and have them draft the language.

You May Be a Real Lawyer

There are many real estate agents who were lawyers in a past life.  Although it may be tempting, don't forget you are no longer allowed to practice law.

You are now a Realtor.  You cannot give ANY legal advice.


Risky Business

The natural inclination of Realtors is to solve issues.  It's what we do.

However, when it comes to the contract, it's important for us to step back and stay in our lane.  If a client has a question or issue that is more complex than you are comfortable with, you need to refer them to a real estate attorney.

Gracefully let them know that you are unable to assist them and that they need to speak with an attorney.  By doing so you save yourself from giving misinformation or misleading your client.

The Buck Stops Here

Remember, real estates are an easy target.  When something goes wrong with the transaction or with the house, the finger gets pointed at us.

We are the most visable person in the transaction, therefore the easiest to blame.

It's great to be helpful, but you don't want to end up in court for giving inaccurate advice or worse, practicing law.

Are you tired of having difficult transactions?

Enjoy less stress by having smoother transactions by implementing these simple strategies today!

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The Reality of Real Estate

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Posted by

Candy Miles-Crocker

Real-Life Real Estate Training

Comments (15)

Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Candy. The first thing I remember about real estate school is learning always seek competent advice.

Dec 06, 2018 06:43 AM
William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

I see agents giving advice often especially in this hot market

Dec 06, 2018 07:01 AM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

Giving legal advice is a big no-no for realtors. Always defer answering legal questions to someone who is in the legal field no matter how knowledgable you may be on the subject.

Dec 06, 2018 12:24 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I like your phrase - "stay in your own lane." It fits for real estate agents, inspectors, appraisers, and even home stagers.

Dec 06, 2018 07:49 PM
Kimo Jarrett
Cyber Properties - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

There are more moving parts to any RE transaction other than the Realtor, so, it depends doesn't it, on what issues are challenging and how to address them? Deferring to the source of the challenge to determine the extent of the challenge is simply the beginning, yet could lead to another source for resolution especially if it's a legal challenge. A buyer should always seek their attorney to review any contract that seems complicated or has a very large contract price and anyone who isn't licensed to practice law should never give any legal advice.  

Dec 06, 2018 09:41 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Great information, Candy. Giving legal advice as a Realtor is a big problem, even if we believe we know the anwers. Like Marte said, I, too, like "stay in your own lane" - it applies to the whole host of real estate-related professionals.


Dec 08, 2018 10:36 AM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Congratulations on getting your post featured! Have a great weekend.

Dec 08, 2018 11:41 AM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Oh I often use the phrase..I'm not  a lawyer ....! Even interpreting the contract I have used so many times can be a challenge when an issue pops up.    Good to always have a couple of trusted lawyers' information handy!

Dec 10, 2018 08:11 AM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

What an important message!!

One of the top reasons agents get their license in trouble is they try to be a lawyer. NO, NO, NO.

Always refer to a professional.

Dec 17, 2018 03:49 PM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Candy Miles-Crocker - Great blog!  I was looking for the gold star, it deserves one.  The two toughest clients I get are lawyers and engineers.  Talk about walking on egg shells. 

Dec 22, 2018 05:06 AM
Debb Janes
Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
Put My Love of Nature At Work for You

Oh yes, such good advice. Bernie ( my partner, husband ) is an attorney and we often have clients ask him for legal advice. He repeatedly tells them he cannot practice law as an agent and gives them names of several real estate attorneys. D 

Dec 22, 2018 09:02 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Candy Miles-Crocker ,

I'm so glad that Carol Williams featured your post in her Second Chance Saturday series as I missed this post! We have been told over and over giving legal advice is a big no-no for Realtors! Unfortunately I still see some trying practice law.

Dec 22, 2018 11:31 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

We teach some continuing education to lawyers for their required credits...and the reverse is also true...lawyers are not realtors...and they learn that too !

Dec 24, 2018 02:03 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

I often use the words "I am not an attorney" with clients. Some agents clearly do not!

Dec 24, 2018 06:57 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

So true!  These are all great points, no matter if you are a seasoned veteran or new to the business.   In Arizona, we are a non-judicial state and we are always reminded never to add language to a contract.  Superceding what an attorney has already created in a contract is not wise!

Dec 26, 2018 09:30 AM