Purchase and Sale of Real Estate

Anyone contemplating the purchase or sale of real estate (vacant land, or land with one or more buildings) should be aware that under Missouri law, real estate agreements are not binding unless they are in writing. That is, oral real estate agreements, with very limited exceptions, will not be enforced by the courts.

Many a prospective purchaser or seller of real estate has been dismayed to learn that a “handshake” real estate deal cannot be enforced if the other side reneges. Therefore, it is always advisable, if a binding agreement is desired, to put a real estate contract in writing.

The vast majority of real estate transactions in Missouri are handled by licensed real estate brokers and salespeople, working in conjunction with so-called “title companies,” without the direct involvement of attorneys. Brokers and salespeople are compensated for their services by receiving a commission, usually based on a percentage of the sale price. The commission is most often paid by the seller of the real estate. The involvement of title companies in real estate transactions is discussed on the “Title Assurance” page.

Attorneys are frequently involved involved in more complicated real estate transactions, including some in which real estate brokers or salespeople are also involved.

Sometimes buyers and sellers of real estate do not involve real estate brokers and salespeople, but simply retain attorneys to handle all the legal details in conjunction with the title company. This often happens when a seller of real estate is comfortable with marketing the real estate and wants to avoid payment of a real estate commission. Attorneys’ fees for real estate work are usually based on a mixture of hourly and flat charges and typically total much less than a standard real estate commission.

Even in the simplest real estate transactions where real estate brokers and salespeople are involved, attorneys can provide valuable legal assistance to the seller or buyer by:

  • Preparing or reviewing contracts
  • Reviewing real estate title reports (see the “Title Assurance” page)
  • Preparing deeds and other documents needed to close the transaction
  • Providing legal advice to the client about the transaction
  • Attending the closing with the client to ensure that all documentation is in proper form and that all documents are properly signed (and notarized when necessary)

Scott Law Firm provides all of these services for clients involved in real estate transactions.

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