There is a huge challenge for buyers and real estate agents today, and it is very real and can cost you a lot of stress and money. If you bought or sold a home 20 or 30 years ago, you may remember how simple the paperwork and process was. Today real estate agents have been put in a difficult place having to play lawyer in many of their transactions. The legal complexities and the mortgage complexities have taken the paperwork and the liabilities for all parties to entirely new levels. Buyers need straight answers to proactively avoid legal and mortgage nightmares.
You would think that the purchase and sale of a single family home would not be all that complex, but it is today. When I started in real estate 37 years ago in Fairbanks, Alaska, we used a simple two page Purchase & Sale Agreement. If the buyer was getting a loan, the agreement was sent to the loan officer, and there was a quick appraisal, the underwriter stamped the file with his approval, and the transaction closed in a few weeks.
But lawyers have had decades to generate more legaleze than anyone can read, and they have litigated every conceivable real estate issue, causing lawyers and title companies and escrow companies and real estate brokers to come up with more language to protect themselves. So a Purchase and Sale Agreement today with the basic addendums is 14 to 17 pages, single spaced 11 or 12 point type face. I just submitted an offer with the seller bank’s required addendums, and the total agreement is 32 pages!
Real Estate Agents as Coordinators
Once you have mutual acceptance with a seller on the price and terms, real estate agents then take on the role of transaction coordinator. There are many potential legal issues and unique scenarios that can kill a transaction if not handled with the highest level of knowledge and diplomatic professionalism. I feel bad for many of the real estate agents I count as colleagues, because they are often forced to do what should be done only by an experienced real estate attorney. Drafting unique language on an addendum to cover an unusual situation is a task for a lawyer, but real estate agents are pressured to draft it. Accurate, concise, and unambiguous language is not easy to draft. It took me many years of practicing as a real estate lawyer to master drafting and editing language in a real estate transaction. It seems unfair that real estate agents should be put in that role, but that is the nature of real estate sales.
Real Estate Agents and Nightmare Stories
I could share dozens of stories of recent transactions that had unique challenges with some aspect of the home inspection, well inspection, septic inspection, roofing repair, appraisal, underwriting requirements, a surprise lien at the 11th hour, and so on. I’m comfortable working through these challenges, because resolving real estate challenges has been my life. The point I want to make in this article is that as a buyer you should definitely hire an experienced agent among all the real estate agents in the area you are buying.
If you’re buying in Sequim or Port Angeles, I do hope you retain me as your buyer’s agent, but whoever you hire, consider that real estate has become far more complex and real estate agents need to take their knowledge and skills to entirely new levels to protect you and to get your transaction to the closing table.
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