Differences Between a Real Estate Lawyer and A Realtor

Real estate attorney Dan Burke

What’s the difference? What are the pros and cons of using each? When is it best to use a lawyer over a realtor?

When it comes to buying or selling real estate, most people think hiring a realtor is their only option. While real estate agents are the more popular choice for helping people buy and sell homes, real estate lawyers are a valuable asset and hiring one may be the best way to accomplish your real estate goals. Let’s discuss what the difference is between realtors and real estate lawyers and when you might need one over the other.

Real Estate Lawyers and Realtors: What’s the difference?

There are some obvious differences between a real estate lawyer and agent: one practices real estate law while the other helps people buy and sell houses. However, there are some key advantages of each that many people don’t often think about. Real estate lawyers, while able to draw up and review contracts, don’t often professionally sell real estate. Very few real estate lawyers know all of the particulars of the real estate profession, including:

  • Information about specific neighborhoods
  • How to prepare a comparative market analysis
  • How to negotiate for repairs
  • How to spot home defects


Acting as a real estate agent is something most lawyers leave to realtors. However, one of the most crucial elements of buying and selling real estate is something realtors are legally not allowed to do: give legal advice.

Legal vs. Real Estate Questions

When asking questions about the real estate buying and selling process, especially questions about their contract, many people are surprised to find that their realtor can’t give them a direct answer. This is because, while realtors can answer as many real estate questions as they want — “How many square feet are in an acre?” —  it’s illegal for them to answer legal questions. Even if they break the law and offer their opinion on a legal issue, their advice can’t be relied upon because they aren’t a lawyer. 

Real estate agents have many ways to answer legal questions indirectly. For example, if a client asks whether they can cancel their purchase contract and get their deposit back, a realtor may point to the clause of the contract about the return of the deposit, and they might disclose what usually happens in this case according to their experience. The realtor may even note that a previous client ran into this same problem and explain how they handled the matter with legal action. While this gives the client an answer of sorts, the realtor avoids directly recommending legal action, which is considered legal advice.

When should you choose a lawyer over a realtor?

Real estate lawyers generally aren’t the best choice if you need someone to help you find a nice neighborhood or line up a buyer for your house, it’s important not to underestimate the legal side of real estate. Real estate attorneys are extremely valuable if you need someone to:

  • Draw up or review a real estate contract
  • Give legal advice on any part of the process
  • Explain your legal protections as a buyer or seller


It’s far better to speak to a real estate lawyer rather than get in a legal bind because you don’t want to spend money on getting reliable legal advice.

If you need a San Antonio real estate lawyer, count on Dan Burke, Attorney at Law. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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