Clients will sometimes ask “Is there anything in this Georgia real estate contract form I need to be worried about?” The saying “Hindsight is 20/20” is very relevant in real estate transactions. Most consumers underestimate the complexity and diversity of issues that can surface when buying or selling a property. Agents are also not mind readers with x-ray vision and super powers.
With different real estate contract forms being used in Georgia, Buyers and Sellers are increasingly asking what the differences are between various form contracts. Not all agents use the same forms. In answering this question, agents have to be very careful not to say anything that could accidentally misinform their client. Agents can answer general questions about the contract based on experience as an agent but specific legal questions are beyond their expertise and should be answered by an attorney.
Thanks again to our Contracts Specialist, Lynn LeCraw, for helping explain the pitfalls well-meaning agents can fall into as they try to serve their clients.
“I am not an attorney”
This should be the 1st thing coming out of your agent’s mouth! They are not dodging responsibility. There are just numerous unintended consequences with contract language. We get to see case law constantly where people are wrestling with some issue – many times it stems from miscommunication.
“You should carefully read any real estate contract before you sign it to make sure you understand what you are agreeing to”
A form contract may not address every issue or point that is important to you. If anything is missing, it should be added in as a special stipulation (drafted by an Attorney – not a real estate agent conducting the unauthorized practice of law).
“I can try and answer general questions about the GAR form contracts based upon my experience with these forms as a REALTOR. However, specific legal questions are beyond my expertise and should be answered by an attorney.”
Not all real estate form contracts are the same and different form contracts address the many issues that arise in real estate contracts in different ways.
“The GAR form Purchase & Sale Agreement is the one I am most familiar with and use in my day-to-day real estate business. I have found that as a general rule, it has served my clients well.”
Here is GAR’s approach to real estate contracts. This disclosure provides as follows:
“GAR Forms: The Georgia Association of REALTORS, Inc. (“GAR”) issues certain standard real estate forms. These GAR forms are frequently provided to parties in real estate transactions. No party is required to use any GAR form. Since these forms are generic and written with the interests of multiple parties in mind, they may need to be modified to meet the specific needs of the parties using them. If any party has any questions about his or her rights and obligations under any GAR form, he or she should consult an attorney. The parties hereto agree that the GAR forms may only be reproduced with sections used in accordance with the licensing agreement of GAR. While GAR forms may be modified by the parties, no GAR form may be reproduced with sections removed, altered or modified unless the changes are visible on the form itself or in a stipulation, addendum, exhibit or amendment hereto.”
Sometimes form real estate contracts are one-sided and only protect the interests of the Buyer or the Seller. The GAR form contract tries to give some protection to both the Buyer and Seller while also protecting the real estate brokers in the transaction from client expectations beyond the terms in the Buyer Agency Agreement.