When there are issues in a transaction, where do you go for help with real estate contracts? The contracts are legally binding documents and when there are problems, they can have serious consequences. You need to know as much as you possibly can about the contract and what it is your signing, but more often than not, the big questions arise after the fact – when something goes wrong and everyone is starting to get nervous. These situations are often tense and more than a little scary, because there is so much on the line. So what do you do? Who do you turn to for advice and information? Where do you get help with real estate contracts?
Your first step in determining who to turn to should be a simple question – how serious is the issue? Is this something simple that just needs some explanation to clear up the confusion or is this something bigger that might lead to termination of the contract or lawsuits?
Help With Real Estate Contracts
There are a lot of different ways to get advice and information about the contracts used for real estate transactions. Some are better than others and each one has their place. Typically, a combination of the methods described below will help answer your real estate contract questions, but remember, always turn to the people involved in your particular transaction as they have the intimate knowledge of the contract – general knowledge and understanding of real estate contracts can be helpful, but not knowing all of the details can lead you down the wrong path.
- Google – We’ll be honest, we have mixed feelings about this one. Google is both the best and worst thing to happen to real estate in the past 100 years. We believe in the free flow of information and as evidenced by this website, we love to help buyers and sellers better understand the world of real estate contracts. But there is a downside to this as well and it’s not exclusive to real estate. Because Google gives us insight into industries and practices that we never had before, it creates a false sense of knowledge about things that while we may know more about than before, we are still no experts in. Having access to this information is indeed helpful, but it does not compare to working in a field or experiencing the information firsthand. Training, skills, study – all of these still apply in the real world. Doctors talk about it all the time – how many times have you looked at WebMD and determined you have either the flu, cancer, or bubonic plague? We post the articles on this site to help give you the general knowledge to understand real estate, but it should never replace advice and information from experts and those with knowledge of your particular transaction or situation.
- Your Realtor – Your agent is one of the best sources for help with real estate contracts. They have been working alongside you on your purchase or sale and have seen the contract in question, and know a lot about you from working so closely with you. They have a level of understanding that few have because they are so involved in the process. Not only do they have intimate knowledge of your particular situations, but they often can see the big picture. They know all the players and moving parts of your particular deal and, with that knowledge, can determine who knows the most about any given piece of the puzzle. They know how the contracts work in their particular state (remember, every state has different laws) and they know what they can and cannot advise you on. They know when to turn to someone better qualified to answer the questions.
- The Experts – Depending on what help with real estate contracts is needed, you may need to call in the experts. Is there an issue regarding the lending side of things? You should talk to your lender. A problem with the title on the property? The title company. Is the survey wrong? Call the surveyor. Depending on the problem, you may need to call the person involved or maybe you’ll need to seek advice from another in that industry – a second opinion if you will. But remember, the facts and details are important, so when someone that is not directly involved in the transaction gives you advice, they may be missing key pieces of information that don’t give them the full knowledge to give the best answer. This is a great time to talk to your real estate agent as they have both direct access to those involved in your transaction as well as other experts in those fields who may be able to help.
- Lawyers – This should always be a last resort as once you cross this line, it’s usually hard to come back. Typically, once you start asking lawyers questions, everyone gets nervous and starts hiring their own attorneys. This can lead to a standoff of epic proportions that could have been avoided. In Texas, our promulgated contracts call for mediation first, so that does help resolve issues without the courts, but you should still hire a lawyer at that point, so it will cost you money. Be especially aware of combining Google and this method as there are a ton of legal advice websites out there, but if you read the fine print, you’ll often find disclaimers about using such advice. As we mentioned previously, the facts and details are crucial to getting the right kind of help with real estate contracts, so a “quick question” often isn’t so quick (or advised), because in order to properly answer the questions, the lawyer will need all of the facts first.
One important note: We all know someone who is an agent or a lawyer or just bought a house, so they’ve been there and can help us. Tread lightly in these areas. While friendly advice or facts from someone else’s home purchase (or sale) can seem to be a quick way to get help with real estate contracts, it often is not the best way. These friends are all well intentioned, but again, they may not know the important facts or details, and may not guide you in the right direction. Bad advice can be worse than no advice at all. Also remember that when someone tells you about their experiences buying a house (family members often do this) and gives you pointers on what to do, when they did this matters greatly. Your uncle that bought his last house in 1979 will have had a much different experience than you as both laws and methodology change over time (sometimes overnight!), so he may have his heart in the right place, but he may be steering you in a completely wrong direction.
We also have to point out to be careful of investment sites and webinars that tell you what to do. We have seen many cases where clients have been advised by one of these sites of gurus of the flipping/investment television shows that are selling a package to teach investors how to make millions to do things that are actually illegal or simply dangerous. From adding wording to the contract that actually puts them in a precarious situation to trying to rewrite sections of the contract that already exist (and have been tested and approved by legal experts) to things that are flat out illegal and should never be done – these things can actually increase your risk and exposure in your transaction. So don’t just write it in because some website or TV personality that overcharged you for a one day seminar told you to do it. Remember, they don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart and often they teach a one-size fits all world of real estate, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Every state has its own laws, but real estate practices vary from town to town. While we obey the same laws, we don’t work the same here in San Antonio as they do in Kerrville.
image courtesy of TMAB2003