After eighteen (18) years of selling real estate as an agent and broker, I decided to make a career change and attended law school. Now a licensed Florida attorney, I enjoy helping real estate agents in a variety of ways. Whether it is indirectly by handling a closing for one of their clients or directly by giving an agent legal advice to protect their license and livelihood, my goal is always the same: to educate, assist and serve to the best of my ability.
I started this blog to help real estate agents become better at their chosen craft and to avoid the legal pitfalls associated with the industry. My hope is that this information will inspire you to become a better real estate agent, acting in the best interest of your clients.
Some of this information may seem basic and intuitive, but I can assure you that I see some of these actions and errors on an almost daily basis. This leads me to my first topic: a legible contract.
First, I get it. I was an active agent trying to juggle the many plates you carry as an agent. I was also guilty of the very thing I am talking about so you are not alone. You write the offer and submit it to the listing agent, or you are the listing agent and receive the written offer from another broker. Your clients counter in writing back and forth several times. You finally get a deal but the contract looks like an Etch a Sketch of a two year old.
I have had agents call me in a panic because the deal is breaking down and people are starting the throw around the word “lawsuit.” The first thing that I or any other lawyer is going to ask you is to look at the contract. If you send me what purports to be a real estate contract but in practice looks more like an ink blot test, an attorney may not be able to help you.
Rule #1 THE CONTRACT SHOULD BE LEGIBLE
As a professional (if you hold a real estate license you are a professional in the eyes of the law) you are held to a higher standard. When things go bad in a real estate transaction, the agent is often the target of a law suit. Many times, the real estate agent has done nothing wrong. However in today’s litigious society a plaintiff may go after whomever they think has deep pockets to pay for their loss (whether it is real or fancied). A real estate agent is an easy target for several reasons.
Let’s suppose this happens to you and you did nothing wrong. Your client may not even be considering suing you but calls you for a copy of the contract. You send them fifteen (15) pages of ink blots. How do you think this makes you look? If you are being sued for professional negligence (remember you are held to a higher standard) this is not a good first impression.
Forget a law suit. The title agency, lender or insurance agent asks you for a copy of the contract. When you hand them a Rorschach test (the ink blots) how are they supposed to do their jobs?
Oftentimes you do everything right but the “other guy” doesn’t know how to email, sells only one house per decade and has to fax from his analog machine. Sometimes you have to be the “one” to make it happen. Go the extra mile and drive across town or spend thirty (30) minutes on the phone walking him through the email process. Your client may or may not appreciate your diligence in jumping through hoops to get a legible contract but it will help you in many ways. You will maintain your reputation as a professional and you won’t give the other side free ammunition in the event of a law suit.
Finally, you might consider adopting an online platform for signing contracts. There are several out there including one that comes with your membership as a Florida Realtor®.