Those two seem awful familiar...
July 5, 2017 9:40 AM   Subscribe

We're getting ready to sell our condo and buy a house, and we need an attorney. Is there any problem with working with an attorney who's married to our agent?

Our agent is terrific. We went with her because, as the association treasurer, I had seen her handle a complicated sale in our building before.

What we don't have is an attorney for the transaction. Our agent's husband is a real estate attorney and he also worked on the aforementioned sale, though I didn't know they were married at the time. He seemed capable from my limited perspective as the association treasurer.

Having no other candidates in mind, is there any reason not to work with him?
posted by chimpsonfilm to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
I can't speak to whether it is a problem, but since you mention you don't have other candidates - your realtor and/or your mortgage lender should be able to give you referrals (the agent should be able to suggest people she is not married to!). Our bank required we work with someone off their set list of approved lawyers, so yours may have a similar requirement.
posted by john_snow at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

The main reason I would imagine is that your real estate lawyer is a line of defence against the possibility that your agent is a) crooked or b) a screw-up. Would her own husband do the necessary due diligence on her work to ensure that you aren't being taken for a ride?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:45 AM on July 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

I'm in New York state. My boss is a real estate attorney, and his wife is a realtor. They've worked together many many times and it's never been an issue.

(I would be more leery of an attorney recommended by the mortgage lender, personally. They might have more behind-the-scenes shenanigans than a husband/wife attorney/agent team.)
posted by Lucinda at 10:35 AM on July 5, 2017

Don't do it. Her husband has a huge conflict of interest because his household income will increase if the sale goes through, and if he has to choose between representing you properly and staying on his wife's good side, it will be hard to choose the former. Even if his integrity is perfect, if something goes wrong you're going to wonder if you made the wrong choice.
posted by wryly at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yes, this sounds like a real potential conflict of interest case. You need a more compelling reason to waive a potential conflict of interest than "this is the only lawyer I've looked at," honestly.
posted by praemunire at 12:09 PM on July 5, 2017

I had a closing delayed for 7 weeks, which I later figured out was due to an error on the part of my attorney. My realtor, who recommended the attorney, covered for him.
posted by she's not there at 12:34 PM on July 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would strongly recommend against this, having just been involved in a real estate transaction from hell in which our attorney's wife (unbeknownst to me) had previously worked with our realtor. When our interests and our realtor's interests diverged, it became clear that our attorney was prioritizing our realtor's interests. (I don't know how much of this was due to the realtor being a family friend and how much was due to the realtor being a source of future business worth much more than the legal fee for our specific closing.) I would never again use an attorney suggested by my realtor.
posted by enn at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2017

There are that many people out there who could do this, why risk even the thought of a conflict of interest coming up when it could be so easily avoided? If anything goes even slightly wrong, you will always be querying it. I would just ask around and find a good recommendation - someone has already mentioned their bank, maybe start there. I would be surprised that the husband would be interested in getting involved, you would imagine he should be looking to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest too.
posted by Jubey at 4:20 PM on July 5, 2017

Do not do that. You want your attorney watching everything like a hawk, assuming everything is wrong until checked. That is very hard to do (even if you try on purpose) when the person doing the work is someone you believe beforehand is a good person who knows what they're doing. And how tempting to let a "little thing" slide to make the deal go smoothly.

I'm sure some people can do it - be totally professional at work and family at home and not mix the two. Not everyone can, and some people who think they can, can't.

If nothing else, you might be doing their marriage a favor if it gets complicated.
posted by ctmf at 7:31 PM on July 5, 2017

Not the same situation but similar. We bought our current house using a buyers agent who led us to a house that she had previously listed (but which had gone unsold due to overpricing). She split up the negotiations by having her agency partner take over our side of the negotiations. Six years later that still bothers me; I feel like she played us. Get a different lawyer.
posted by intermod at 7:42 PM on July 5, 2017

Thanks, everyone. We'll go another direction. I appreciate the stories about problems that arose for you. Because our condo purchase was so smooth (years ago), it's helpful to be reminded about the need to be vigilant and maintain checks.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 7:54 PM on July 5, 2017

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