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Validity of extra charges from real estate attorney. What is a typical case and what is not?

Dayton, NJ |

I am under contract to sell my property. My attorney claims my file is "too thick", and so she will charge a few hundred dollars extra. Her agreement with me states that she will charge extra if my case is "unusual". I don't know what is normal and what is not. So for some background: (1) The house had inspection issues, which the buyer and I negotiated via email (she and buyer attorney were on the cc and they forwarded each email back & forth) . (2) The contract had an appraisal clause that allowed re-negotiation of the sale price if the appraisal came in low - which it did. There were about 4-5 days of negotiation which generated several emails. For those in real-estate law, do these two factors look unusual enough to warrant extra charges? Please advise.

The transaction involves a residential property. The property was rented out for the last two years, and has been vacant since May 2013 being for sale.

Attorney Answers 4

  1. In New Jersey, attorneys handling residential real estate closing generally charge a flat fee and the only extra charges are for out-of-pocket expenses, such as filing fees and postage/delivery. However, for commercial real estate closings, some attorney's may charge an hourly fee. Since the question does not specify what type of transaction is in question, it is impossible to give more specific answer.

  2. Were you contracted for a flat rate for services? Or was it an hourly...perhaps with a cap on total fee? How are the rates for "unusual" transactions calculated....hourly?

    Lawyers charge for their time..."unusual" cases take more time. So it really is a function of what the original fee is and what the new fee is. Are the fees related...meaning are they proportional for the extra time and effort?

    At the end of the day, you seemed locked in to the transaction and will have to pay the fee to get the attorney to complete the service. If the attorney fee seems out of proportion from the original quote, you can always contact the local bar association

  3. Many attorneys charge a flat fee, some obviously higher than others. Those on the high side might not charge for extra work (taking the good with the bad) where those on the low side might.

    How much is your attorney's fee? $750? $1,500? Somewhere else?

    In case it helps, I'd like to point out that there are other "unusual" factors for which *some* attorneys might charge extra. Don't know if any of the following apply, but in case it helps, here are a few:

    - Unsatisfied prior mortgages
    - Mistakes on the last deed of record
    - Life estates in title
    - Divorcing sellers
    - Judgments/liens against the property or the seller
    - short-sales
    - homeowners associations

    Disclaimer: (1) I may be guessing and/or not even licensed in your state; (2) We have not established an attorney-client relationship; (3) Sometimes you get what you pay for; and (4) If you want to send me a gift, my favorite color is orange.

  4. While most attorneys in NJ charge a flat fee for real estate transactions, I have seen where an attorney will charge an extra fee for "extraordinary circumstances" - such as removal of an UST and escrowing for an NFA letter from the state - or escrowing for judgments and liens that appear on a run down search and must be cleared post-closing.

    If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education purposes only. It neither creates an attorney-client relationship nor provides legal guidance or advice. The answer is based on the limited information provided and the answer might be different had additional information been provided. You should consult an attorney.

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