Why other lawyers don't (but should) sell real estate

Tuesday 21st November 2023
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I’m unusual in the legal world. I’m a property and family lawyer, and as part of my legal practice, my team and I sell real estate for my clients.

When I ask other lawyers why they don’t sell real estate, I generally get the same answer – we get too many referrals from real estate agents.  We don’t want to lose that work. 

That answer brings three things to my mind:

  1. Real estate commissions aren’t going to change unless there’s more competition in the market.  Charging a commission of 3-4% of the sales price is too much for the work involved.  Why has it become normal to pay $40,000 plus marketing to sell a $1m house?  $40,000 should buy you a nice car, not a relatively basic service. 
  2. That scene from Braveheart where Mel Gibson tries to convince the Scottish lords to fight for freedom against the English.  It goes something like *cue strong Scottish accent* You’re so busy fighting for the scraps from Longshanks’ table that you’ve missed your God given right to something better – if we fight, we win.  If we win, we’ll have what we’ve never had – a country of our own.  Okay, so the last part isn’t totally on point.  Great movie.
  3. You can’t sell a house without a lawyer.  It’s the real estate agent that is optional, not the lawyer.  Come on fellow lawyers, let’s turn this thing around!

I’m not a licenced real estate agent.  I don’t need to be.  NZ Lawyers have been allowed to sell real estate since 2006.  We aren’t allowed to charge commissions.  Our fees must be based on a list of reasonable fee factors.  My real estate clients say my fees are cheap.  I prefer “cost effective”.

Next time – Why real estate agent's commissions shouldn’t be deducted from the deposit.