BY Kay Wilson-Bolton
December 18, 2004
A common situation members of REALTOR® grievance panels deal with is that buyers and sellers state did not understand the contract when they signed it.
Attorneys who specialize in real estate matters will confirm this.
One of the contract items that bites the hardest is the time frame within which the counteroffer language. It is the states very clearly that until such time as the offer and counters are signed by both buyer and seller, the house is available for sale to another buyer.
It is common, particularly in smaller towns and with close relationships between REALTORS®, for conversations to go back and forth conveying counteroffer points, without obtaining signatures. In most cases, this convenience can work, but it is a dangerous practice.
Picture the agents clarifying counteroffer points over personal property. The agreed upon price was slightly less than the asking price. It is 9 pm and the agent representing the buyer decides to wait until morning to call his client and wrap up the sale.
In the meantime, the agent for the seller receives a call from a new agent with information that he has an offer on the property ands asks if the property is sold. The only right answer is “no.” For the agent to state that it is sold misrepresents the situation as he required by law to preset all offers to the seller up until the close of escrow.
This is even more important if the new offer is better than the first one. Some would argue that there was a verbal agreement. Clearly the seller could honor their word if they chose to do so and go with the first offer, but the paperwork states that the property is for sale until the document is signed by all parties.
The best way to avoid these troubling circumstances is to act proficiently and with dispatch. Get the document signed. Fax copies are as acceptable as an original.
The other solution is if you don’t understand your contract, you are not required to sign it. You are expected, however, to read your document before you do sign it.
The safest route is to choose a REALTOR® with integrity and one who will act in your best interest. Time has always been of the essence. You do have choices and make sure you choose a REALTOR®. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS® and there is a difference!
Kay Wilson-Bolton is the owner of CENTURY 21 Ojai Valley and CENTURY 21 Buena Vista and brings a regional perspective to local issues. She can be reached at 805.340.5025.