Effective October 15th of this year, Washington State is unifying its multiple listing Purchase and Sale boilerplate agreement and related addenda so offers using the same legal forms and framework can be written state-wide. While I cannot presume to know how the remaining forty nine states approach their forms, I am reminded of how important it is to scrutinize the offers you write as a buyer’s representative and receive for your listings. For instance, our Real Property Transfer Disclosure Statement (Form 17), that document in which sellers disclose what material facts they know to be true about their property’s history and condition, underwent significant revision in June of this year. Yet, despite the fact previous versions are now null and void and should be discarded, they continue remain in use and circulated by agents who have not remained current.
At face value, this may seem innocuous enough until you, as the listing agent, discover the prospective buyer may have a right to walk from the deal up until the day of closing because you haven’t practiced due diligence and provided your clients the correct form. It is an agent’s duty to insure anything the client is signing is up-to-date, appropriate to the contract, client’s intentions and various local laws. To do any less is essentially an act of malpractice with sometimes ugly repercussions. Are you current with all your forms? If not, you should be. The number of times I’ve seen poorly executed or incomplete agreements is astounding and can often be attributed to agent ingnorance or worse yet, laziness.
Though I’m now in my seventh year of real estate sales in Seattle and have witnessed significant evolution of the forms we use, their volume and number have remained relatively static, a typical offer containing twenty pages or so. Years ago, Purchase and Sale agreements were but only a page or two in length with few contingencies. Consumers are far savvier today on a number of fronts; legal (sometimes pseudo) advice and information is readily available on the Internet, forms are more complex and we agents are held to the same standard of care as an attorney….in our state at least. If you’re new to the business and just familiarizing yourself with your multiple listing service’s documents, it may all be a bit overwhelming. Fair enough. I recommend you consult with your broker and/or find a mentor to help you navigate their oft confusing terms and structure. If you are a seasoned agent, not being current simply puts you and your license in jeopardy.
I’m going out on a limb here, but can already see the signs of some agent attrition, a result of this fluctuating market. The veterans and savvy new agents will survive the turmoil, due in part to being informed, current and well able to articulate this very important part of an agent’s job.