Renter is buying house in Seattle. Seeks flat fee advice.

Hi,
A friend of mine in Seattle is buying the home that she's currently renting. She has already reached agreement with the landlord on price, but she wants someone to help her complete the transaction and accompanying paperwork. Perhaps a lawyer or a real estate agent who will do this for a small flat fee?

  • October 06 2009 - North Queen Anne
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Answers (10)

Sam's spot on, pointing out why agents might prefer a little better renumeration for the liability that they incur.

Generally speaking, professionals bristle at being asked to perform services for a small fee. Small isn't a word that makes us drop what we're doing, eager to serve. Small is a word that tells us, these people don't respect what we do, they don't value what we do, and they're probably going to expect 'way more than they're willing to pay for.

For example: "Here's the paperwork. Everybody just sign right there and there." Oh, but wait - there's a Financing Contingency? Well, yeah; you're relying on a contingent source of funds to buy the property, right? Well, sure.

"What's the Inspection Contingency about?" Were you planning to buy the property "as-is," or have an inspection? What were you going to do if you discovered some problems? What are you going to do if you don't inspect for things that may turn out to be major problems?

What happens if something breaks before closing? Who's going to be responsible for fixing it?

Now, what happens if "something happens" after closing, and the Buyer (possibly the Seller, but not likely), decides that Small Flat Fee Agent (SFFA) should have alerted them to the possibility? At the very least, there will be a couple of unpleasant phone conversations that the SFFA will have to endure.

Not me, palie.

 
 
  • October 11 2009
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Profile picture for Bretzke

Over the years, I have purchased houses directly from the owner. Never a bad transaction.  Once I used a Real Estate attorney to do the closing paper work, who charged $500.  I was buying a rental house  from a neighbor.  Not a lot of risk. 
 
 The second house I  ever purchased, was from neighbor as well, and we wrote a one page agreement with the basic terms of price, interest rate, down payment, closing date, and escrow and closing agent.  Everything went well as there were reasonable people with some knowledge of real estate and had reasonable expectations.  

Your friend can give me a call or send an email, and I would be glad to discuss in general terms about things they should include in their transaction, just as we give here on zillow advice.  For specifc real estate advise on their transaction, they would need to sign a contract.  

  • October 07 2009
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Profile picture for SeattleHome.com
Good point by Mack.  Each broker is different, but those that I know wouldn't take on the liability for $1500.  Sure, we're technically not party to the contract.  Put a Realtor and a homeowner in front of a judge, however....it doesn't matter how many times the buyer said "I just want you to give us the paperwork."  The Realtor will be assumed to have been an agent/fiduciary.
  • October 06 2009
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Thanks everyone for the great advice. I've passed it along to my friend.
  • October 06 2009
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I don't know what your friend's idea of a small flat fee is, but bringing a third party in now will require the approval of both parties, as will bringing in the "paperwork," which is, in fact, a binding contract with real responsibilities and liabilities involved.

Your friend should stop talking to her friends (no offense intended) and talk to the seller about how they want to bring this about. If your friend wants representation, well, so might the seller, and somebody is going to have to pay these people.

Before a licensee takes this on for a fee without a comma, I strongly urge them to ask their broker if the broker is willing to take on the liability for, say, less than $1500.

The Seller may feel that "your friend" bringing in an agent to "write it up" is less confrontational then bringing in a LAW-YER, so it may be worth springing the thou and a half. Or, maybe not. 
  • October 06 2009
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Profile picture for SeattleHome.com

Get the home inspected right away.  Current renters usually think they know a house well enough to buy it without inspecting, but you need a much different outlook on the home if you're going to be responsible for all of its upkeep.  If the inspection goes well, then write the contract.

  • October 06 2009
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I posted from my Blackberry when my internet was down and it is not here yet so if it shows up I am sorry for the double post.

Spencer,

Your friend can probably find a sales contract online or at an office supply store but I would recommend an agent or attorney simply to make sure all of her bases are covered and she is protected with the proper contingencies and addendums.

I would be happy to do it for a flat fee and run it through my office.  I would not charge anywhere near the $1500 that was quoted and I would use standard MLS forms.

Have her contact me if she wants.

Hope this helps.

Jeff Stobie
Broker

  • October 06 2009
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Profile picture for nwhome.us
Spencer,  I will email you contact info for 2 attorneys
  • October 06 2009
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I would do it for $1500 which is probably cheaper than anyone else I can think of. :) 
  • October 06 2009
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Here's the email she sent me:

"I have some questions about purchasing a home here in Seattle...Tonight, we came to a firm and specific verbal agreement to buy the house we are currently renting...we need some sort of help navigating the legal aspects of the process and transaction. Do you have any specific contacts/suggestions - perhaps someone/a lawyer who really knows this market/system well and is not too expensive? Also, is there any way to get a hold of a generic Agreement of Sale that's legal in the State of Washington so we can at least get that rolling in the meantime? I feel like we were able to do that (with our house in Philly) without too much extra help since it is pretty simple. We're trying to get it going ASAP."
  • October 06 2009
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