Which form are you using?
Residential real estate transactions are put together using preprinted forms. Agents generally fill in the blanks with the exception of the “big white space” where Additional Terms and Conditions are placed. Agents are prohibited from practicing law so the fill in the blanks method keeps the attorneys appeased that we aren’t competing with them. An agent’s job is to sell the property and memorialize the agreement between the parties so the contract form becomes important.
Most Northern Nevada agents belong to the local Boards of Realtors. As such, they have access to the Instanet form program. It is connected to the Multiple Listing Service which allows it to auto-populate the basic information into a contract, i.e., property address, assessor’s parcel number, listing agent and contact information, etc. Gone are the days of carbon paper and no-carbon required (NCR) paper, everything is done on the computer. Tab and fill, tab and fill through the contract. When you put in the name of a party, buyer or seller, it auto-populates to all the forms that you have pulled up to use in that transaction.
There are other good contract programs available to agents and some use them instead of or in addition to the Instanet produced forms. Professional Publishing was the standard of the industry for many years, now known as Zipforms. They still have some forms that are better, in our opinion, than their counterpart form in other programs. These include the AS-IS Addendum, the Buyer’s Walk Through Addendum, and the Extension of Contract Terms. An agent can mix and match the forms to make a better overall contract, one that suits them and/or the transaction better.
There are many assorted disclosure forms these days that serve to protect different parties to the transaction, including the brokers. Some brokers have their own in-house disclosure that transfers some of the burden of liability and discovery to the principals. Others are very demanding of information and disclosure that the majority of the parties would have no knowledge about. Be careful when you sign these forms. Don’t just assume they are working in your best interest, they may act like it while they protect themselves. Ask all the questions that come to mind. You are embarking on a significant endeavor, the purchase or sale of a home, and you should understand everything that you are signing to the extent that you wish to comprehend it.
Agents aren’t required to train you to be a real estate agent, but just like the mechanic can tell you about the part that is broken in your car and the consequences of not repairing it, likewise your medical doctor with your broken parts, the agent should be able to give you an explanation of terms and consequences and show you in the contract how it works and all ties together.
Our advice: A contract is the meeting of the minds between the parties. Ideally, you could shake hands and have a binding agreement on each other’s word, but in this day and age, even a contract sometimes doesn’t even keep things together. We’ve seen an agreement for a large ranch written on a napkin in a bar and get successfully closed while multi-page detailed contracts fell apart. The contract is only as good as the people involved, but it is very important to make sure the written word memorializes the intention and stated commitments of the parties. Read the details – that is where the Teufel lurks. Contracts may seem alike at first blush but contain vastly different terms.
If you want something to be really clear in an offer feel free to have it repeated in the big white space or in an addendum. Better to be redundant and clear than to hope that everybody will read and understand the fine print.
When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Lisa Wetzel & Jim Valentine, CDPE, SFR, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-3704. firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.carsonvalleyland.com