Does one really need to be reminded to read everything before signing? I’m afraid so. Courtrooms are filled with people saying, “That’s not what I heard you say when I bought it.” They might even say, “I didn’t see that small print when I bought it.” If they’re real brave and honest but sort of ignorant, they might even admit, “well I didn’t read all that stuff when I bought it.” Duh! Here’s your sign! Why do you suppose purchase agreements are so lengthy to begin with? Why do you think some things are in smaller print than the rest of the document? Because it’s important! Let me give you some advice that will save you a lot of money as well as misery; If you buy anything expensive enough to require documents be signed, you make sure to read every little word and make sure you understand what you have read. If you don’t understand, ask questions until you do understand.
A real estate purchase is one of the largest financial investments many people will make in their life-time. Yet many times they will sit during closing and sign one document after another without reading any of them. Oh, sometimes they will glance over it and say, “This seem right to me.” That’s a huge mistake. Just because you are dealing with a real estate agent you like and trust doesn’t mean that every document is for your own personal protection. Included in every real estate closing package are documents containing words, terms and phrases to protect the real estate agency, the lender, the attorney’s, the title companies, the appraiser’s and virtually everyone that has a part in the transaction; yes, even the seller. Where is that small print to protect the buyer’s best financial interest? It’s so tiny you may not be able to find it. That’s why you should read every little word in every document before you sign it. It’s not that everyone is out to take advantage of the buyer. The fact is that buying real estate is very legalistic. Potential law suits loom on every corner. Disclosures must be stated in writing for our own protection. Just in case something comes up at some future date.
Let me give you an example of tiny words that have enormous consequences. Many agencies use purchase agreement forms that contain the words “AS IS.” The original intent in using these words was to state that the property is selling as seen on such and such date. Its meaning however, has a totally different connotation with the judicial system. Contractual language containing “AS IS—WHERE IS” has been determined to mean the seller sells without any warranty of any kind; and the buyer agrees to buy without any warranties from the seller. In other words you are buying it just like it sits! There is a big difference between a properties selling in the condition seen on a certain date compared to no warranties at all. We can all agree upon that. BUT, Supreme Courts across the country have ruled that if the words “AS IS” are used in the purchase agreement in any way, they actually mean “AS IS—WHERE IS” and the buyer has no legal recourse after closing. Other words the buyer is accepting the property with no guarantees of any type. With that in mind don’t you think it is important to carefully read all documents to make sure those two little words are not used?
I should practice what I preach but I’m human. I read every real estate document when I buy or sell property but when I buy a new car I just sign the papers as a formality. At least I only buy new cars that are guaranteed by the factory and the company. Would I be the same way if I were buying a car from a used car lot? No, absolutely not! I would read everything very carefully. So it should be with all us that we read any document we sign so we can know exactly what we have agreed to do or not to do.
Should you have specific questions concerning various issues, please let me know and I’ll research the answer for you. I also want to encourage you to subscribe to our “News & Updates” weekly report so you can stay abreast of issues that might affect you when buying or selling real estate. If you haven’t visited my website, please go to www.AlabamaRealEstateInstitute.com and view previous articles.