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Four corners of the document

January 13, 2012
By MARIO D'ARTAGNAN ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Many times parties to a real estate contract are confused about what their responsibilities are. The specific language incorporated within the four corners of the contract is what prevails. In that respect, every section delineates either the buyers' or the sellers' obligations, and when certain things must be performed and concluded.

Over the years the Florida Association of Realtors and the Florida Bar Association have collaborated in developing and revising real estate contracts to better fulfill the needs of consumers and Realtors alike resulting from dynamic market changes and the way we do real estate business.

A real estate purchase agreement is very straight forward, and there really should not be any major issues associated with the contract itself. The real questions appear when someone cannot or does not perform within the time constraints specified in the contract. For example, what happens when the buyers' lender inserts a document in the multi-page loan package that contains language that the buyers are not comfortable signing? Assuming the buyers/borrowers had provided truthful information during the course of applying for their loan, this last minute loan issue can in fact, delay closing.

This begs the question, "Who then becomes responsible for costs incurred from the original contractual closing date to the new closing date?" The simple answer is that the sellers would continue to be responsible for any and all ownership costs (taxes, interest on existing loans) until the property closes. However, delays in closing can create a hardship for the sellers, particularly when the sellers have performed exactly as the contract stated, and all that is left to do is close the transaction. This is when the seller's agent could negotiate an addendum to the contract where the buyers/borrowers would incur the costs of ownership until the new day of closing.

Consequently, parties to the purchase contract include only the buyers and sellers, more accurately described as the vendees and vendors, not the real estate agents. The parties are sometimes quick to blame their agents for any delays that may occur, when in most cases, delays occur due to some non-performance, or situation that the agents have no control over. The agents want to close transactions as much as the parties to the contract. And to look to the agents for recompense is ludicrous especially when the agents have done everything within the scope of their duties.

All real estate contracts contain "hidden" agenda. The hidden agenda is not intentional. It is inherent in the letting go of, in many cases, years of commitment - commitment to family, commitment to communal common issues. Heightened emotions prevail in parentheses in all of the pragmatics of the contract. In order to deal with all of these variables, one must choose, and choose very carefully, a professional agent who can sort through not only the binding contractual issues within the four corners of the document, but address in a professionally empathetic manner, the unspoken dynamics placed between each and every paragraph of the binding agreement. A truly professional agent must be educationally, professionally and personally experienced enough to determine the issues, bring flexibility to the last-minute, negotiable changes, and be the balm that will insure that their customer walks away from the closing table, completely satisfied that their best interests have been loudly and clearly represented within the four corners of the document.

Mario D'Artagnan is a broker associate at Realty World Florida, Inc. Mario is a former investigator for the Florida Real Estate Commission. He is also a former real estate instructor. He is a published author and has been a keynote speaker on the subject of agency law. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. For questions or comments contact him at: or call 239-565-4445.



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