Home Buying in 75063>Question Details

Sarah M, Home Buyer in Irving, TX

Do flat-fee residential real estate attorneys exist in this area? A friend of mine in Chicago told me she

Asked by Sarah M, Irving, TX Thu May 15, 2008

hired a real estate attorney that helped with their home purchase for a $400 fee. Does anything like this exist in Dallas?

I think we may need to recover some earnest money we've put down. Our builder has made a substitution for an option we added and signed off on, without notifying us. (We signed off on "marble garden tub" and they've put in some crappy small porcelain tub and expect us to pay the same!)

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Are you using someone like INest?

If the builder put in plumbing top out, the house is close to ready and they are ready to close the house. They probably don't want to have to go through the hassle of taking out the tub, chipping out the tile (?) tub surround, ordering a new tub, installing it, having the plumbers uninstall and install the tubs, re-grout the tile area, etc.

Do you still want the house? If so, go up the food chain at the builder's corporate office if you can't get it changed with the sales counselor or builder there onsite. Go to the project manager, then the VP, then the President of the Region, etc.

If that doesn't get you where you want, tell them you are going to file a grievance with the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC) and then do so.

If it makes you feel any better, builders will not let you put EM or options money in escrow as if you decide not to buy the home, they would not have any recourse to get the money. The builders feel like they are taking the risk for building a $300k (or whatever) home and the homeowner is putting down something like 1% or less.

If you have decided to let go of the home, then contact your Realtor and let them know what's going on. If it's one of those type of firms where you never meet the person, you can just call the office and let them know what's going on. They're not going to get paid at all if you don't buy the home, so they've got a vested interest in this. See if they'll be willing to do anything on your behalf. I also know an awesome RE attorney who does speaker work with Stephen Covey, but don't think he works on flat fee.

Contact me if I can be of further help.

Terri Hayley
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri May 16, 2008
Sarah, we use real estate attorneys, here in Chicago, on about 98% of our transactions. Your friend is correct, that most REattorneys, here in our area, charge a flat-fee by the transaction, presumably, because they know they'll make it up in volume.

I don't know if you have the same thing in the big "D" or not.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 15, 2008
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL

You've gotta be kidding. No sheetrock or anything?! Then, they just either ordered the wrong tub, or the wrong tub was delivered. If the wrong tub was delivered, the subcontractor should have to cover the expense in getting it switched out. Maybe they're concerned it'll put them behind on their schedule. In either case, you should at a minimum get what you paid for! :)

Happy to help,
Terri Hayley
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri May 16, 2008
If you have a buyer's agent then they can help, but if the agent is working for the seller their hands may be tied. I would call the managers and try to get it done that way. Like I said earlier. My client and I called and we got the problem fixed.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu May 15, 2008
Sorry to hear about your problems. Flat fee or not your agent should be going to bat for you. It is my understanding they can't give up on their basic duties to you even if they have reduced their commission. Of course you may need an attorney to tackle that as well. I don't know of any flat fee attorney around here especially on an issue like that. I would think you would want a board certified real estate attorney as well. You can get referral service from http://www.dallasbar.org/referral/ I'd push around at the builder a bit before I did this though, or have your agent's broker do this for you.
Web Reference: http://www.teamlynn.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu May 15, 2008
Bruce Lynn, Real Estate Pro in Coppell, TX
I hate to hear what had happened... I don't know of any real estate attorney that would do this for $400... if you had used an agent ... is it tooooo late for an agent if so happy work with you for a fee

FYI that is why here in trulia we answer so many emails and calls a day of buyers who did not use agents who can represent you. Under an agents e&o insurance would have been covered, an agent could have handle this.

However a contract is a contract pressure that builder breached the contract non performance that you will not close till it is replaced however you can lose your earnest money I hope it is at title? or was it paid too the builder?

Web Reference: http://www.lynn911.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu May 15, 2008
One of my clients had something similar happen. They just moved up the company ladder and got the problem resolved without a lawyer.
Maybe try that first.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu May 15, 2008
Unlike Illinois, Texas Real Estate is controlled by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC), and in Texas we use promulgated forms for Real Estate transactions. These forms are developed by a Lawyer/Broker committee, appointed by the Texas Govenor. The verbage in these forms is designed to protect the general public. In general, utilizing these forms eliminates the need for individual attorneys in Real Estate transactions. Title companies are run by Lawyers and by obtaining title insurance, you're protecting your investment. Note: Lenders will demand title insurance to protect their investment. Builders don't always play by the rules and often create their own documents, which can be skewed in their favor. This is why we highly recommend you obtain the services of a professional Realtor in all Real Estate transactions.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Feb 28, 2010
Fees with attorneys are like fees with Realtors - you can negotiate. I think you have gotten your self in hot water here and it is too late to mention $400.
Unfortunatley, no one warned you that not all builders were really what I would call builders in Texas. Any one that wants to get their feet wet in the business can hang out a shingle. Many under bid the project. Many do not pay the subcontractors. There are many problems. Plus you run into a lot that don't know what they are doing. As for the agent. They do not have to be "agents" as in Real Estate Agents. Any one can work fot the builder. He can go to the elementary school and choose the talest 6th grader and hire him/her if he chooses.

My son was building a Commercial Building in Austin. The contractor took his draws from the bank as he finished certain stages as required. The bank checked these stages. Everything okay th here? No!!
He was not paying his subcontractors. My son started getting calls about leins that were to be placed on his property an building. He had to come up with an additional $67,000 to pay these contractors and complete the building himself. This was a so called Contractor with a good reputation.

Any recorse, No. Sue maybe - but everything is protected in a corporation.

Cut your losses and move on . Make the right choices next time. Remember sometimes when you try to save you cut too many corners. Next time use a Realtor in your purchase. His/Her Broker has something to loose if you are misled. The Realtor and Broker will work for you.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue May 20, 2008
It's a bit more complicated than that - initially the home was being built on spec (honestly, probably because they thought they had us on the hook), so it was already in stage 1 when we put down the earnest money. We did the earnest money contract with an addendum contingent on them changing the layout of the master bath to include a tub instead of a large shower. They said "that's easy," so we signed.

3 days later we visited the house and they'd put in a tub different than promised -- my thinking is that they didn't want to incur the cost of moving one of the already-framed walls down several inches, and they're trying to tell us "the marble tub won't fit."

I'm telling them they need to either make it fit or we're not closing... and if they don't, it might be worth getting a lawyer to at least get some of our money back.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri May 16, 2008
To answer Terri's questions about the construction stage, they actually haven't even sheetrocked the walls yet, though I'm not sure if the plumbing is done yet in that part of the house (it is in place in the laundry room). We went in to take pictures of the framed house a couple of days ago and discovered the cheaper tub there in place. There's no tile or anything, just the wrong tub sitting there.

I totally agree about the "vested interest" thinking regarding our realtor; we contacted him yesterday to see if he has any ideas.

For now we are continuing to put on pressure, thanks to everyone for your advice!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri May 16, 2008
Lynn, to answer your question, we have a real estate agent who is representing the builder/seller and theoretically giving us a "rebate" portion of his commission at closing.

However, we were too trusting and didn't think it would be necessary to use any kind of escrow for the earnest money. :(

(deleted and re-submitted to change "representing the buyer" to seller... am a bit frazzled today with all this drama!)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu May 15, 2008
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