New Contract Clarification Reduces Home-Buyer’s Stress

Contributing Writer

So you want to buy a house but you are terrified of facing the paperwork? There’s all that fine print, struggling to see if you are signing your life or your first-born away while accumulating something that will fall apart in the hopefully not-too-near future. The affluent among us can hire a lawyer, the rest have to make do with parties of the first and third part and hope we can figure out what it means.

Buying a house is more nerve-racking than signing most contracts, for you are obligating yourself and a large portion of your future income in making what, for most of us, will be the largest purchase of our lives.

Believe it or not, in the real estate industry in Oklahoma, help is not only on the way but has arrived. After several years of wrangling, massaging, arguing, and rewriting, the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission has come up with a contract that will not only be accepted statewide but is expected in time to be mandated. Right now there is a plethora of contracts, all perfectly legal, used throughout the state. However, this contract is designed to bring the sanity of uniformity to the process.

One of the major efforts was to make it readable. It will never replace the latest John Grisham novel as bedtime reading but anyone with a basic education should be able to wade through it.
What questions are you going to be asked?

Well first, of course, is the address. Just putting down 123 Higginbottom Lane isn’t going to cut it; you’re going to need a legal description like Lot 4, Block 2, Gigglesnort Addition. Don’t worry; your sales associate will help you through this one.

Of course, how much you are willing to pay for the property and how much cash you’ll lay out in earnest money is addressed, as well as when the closing date will happen. Naturally you’d expect most things such as light fixtures to remain with the house, but if you plan to take that chandelier that great-great-uncle Beauregard saved from the Yankees just before the fall of Vicksburg and has been in the family as a treasured heirloom for years you’d better note it in the contract, otherwise the buyer will have every reason to believe it will remain behind.

The buyer has 10 days (more can be negotiated) to inspect the property and the contract will spell out who is going to pay what for whom in the way of repairs. What many novice buyers may not know is that you can almost always find something in these 10 days that can get you out of a contract, but since you liked the house in the first place enough to make an offer, such second thoughts are relatively rare.

There are abstracts to be brought up to date (you wouldn’t want to find out, after you’d moved in, that someone else has a claim on your property), and there is the discipline of repairing things found lacking (undisturbed termites, for example) and who is going to pay for them. The sales contract must spell all this out in detail.

Sound complicated? There is a marvelous book the Greater
Tulsa Association of Realtors has published titled You Need to Know which is about to be replaced by a statewide guide called The Uniform Residential Contract Guide and believe me, you need to know it. It will let you in on not only the pitfalls of house buying but also the opportunities to protect yourself.
So are you still going to buy a house? Here are some suggestions:

A. Hire a sales associate from a reliable real estate firm (a note of disclosure here, I am an associate so I cannot assume an air of disassociated purity, but I still think it’s a good idea) and let yourself be guided through the shoals of contract complexity.

B. Get yourself a copy of The Uniform Residential Contract Guide. Your associate is required to supply you with one copy prior to entering into a contract.

C. Get a copy of the new contract and make sure the associate you choose is conversant with it. Take the contract and You Need to Know and read them side-by-side until you thoroughly understand each provision. Your sales associate will be glad to clear up any confusion. It might also be a good idea to take the new John Grisham along in case your eyes start to glaze over and you need a little diversion.

D. Don’t get sales fright. True, buying a house is a daunting experience but millions have gone through it and lived to tell their grandchildren.

E. You can do it. You are in charge. Good luck.

David Jones is a sales associate with Prudential Detrick Realty. He can be reached at 381-2345.

Updated 07-24-2006

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