Get it in Writing

“I know what the contract says, but…” might be the lamest saying in the real estate business. And maybe the most often used.

I’m not sure when we lost our respect for the plain old signature. It might have started when we first began faxing documents to other agents, rather than putting together packages of contracts, financial data, and a deposit check to be hand delivered to the listing broker. Maybe it started during the heated market of the last decade, when the urgency of delivering agreements led to scanned and emailed documents sent to the listing broker with a note that you would bring the deposit over later when the agreement had been accepted. Maybe it was the general use and acceptance of electronic forms, that degraded the urgency of getting things in writing, with original signatures, and actual deposits- (Would you believe that I once received an agreement of sale with photocopies of the “cash deposit”? Not only a Federal crime, but a real non-event- What did that mean to the seller?)

Don’t take my post so far as an argument against electronic signatures – I think they are wonderful, and useful, and as valid as the written signature, but a real signature of the principals involved in a transaction should be key to any action taken in a sale.

Too often, in talking to agents about the problems that face around them around the country, I hear tales of documents faxed to the cooperating broker, which was never returned as signed, though the agent who faxed it thought that they had some agreement. Contracts, modifications to contracts, even termination and release documents all need to be in writing, and executed by both parties for the contract or its modifications to have any legal standing.

If you have sent something to another agent, you must be remorseless in your efforts to obtain the executed form back, or you must relate to your client that you just don’t have any agreement on the change they proposed. You cannot assume that silence on the part of the other party means that they agree to the change you requested.

It is more than just being a stickler for form. You have a legal obligation to your client to assure that all agreements between them and the other party are in writing- and that means more than typing and sending a request. You have an obligation under the Code of Ethics if you are a REALTOR to assure that same thing, and on a practical basis, you will avoid potential conflicts with the coop broker, potential litigation with they other principal, and potential complaints from your client. So do a favor for me, your client, and yourself – get it in writing – and make sure its signed !

Ok, rant over, go back to work now….

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