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Read what you're getting into before it's too late
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 • Posted June 16, 2009 10:00 PM

You'd be surprised how many people sign real estate documents without ever reading them. Then again, maybe you wouldn't. Perhaps you've even put your signature at the bottom of a contract or form that you merely skimmed over. I strongly advise against this.

What's written counts

From beginning to end, a real estate transaction will present you with more forms, disclosures, contracts and applications than just about any other activity you'll ever undertake. You know the numbers on these documents matter, but so do the words. In fact, if any party disputes who was obligated to do what - and how or when - those words carry more weight than any verbal discussions or agreements. They may even spell out how a dispute gets resolved - like mandatory mediation, for example.

Start off on the right foot

Early in the process, sellers will likely be presented with a listing agreement, and buyers may be asked to sign a buyer's representation agreement. These contracts outline the arrangement between you and your real estate broker. They protect both parties by spelling out what services the broker will provide as well as details about compensation and duration of the agreement.

If there's anything you don't understand about the listing or buyer's representation agreement, ask your Texas REALTOR® to explain it to you. These agreements are not typically complex, but they do cover many specifics and potential scenarios.

Preview of coming attractions

Whether you're a buyer or seller, you will eventually deal with a contract offer. Most homebuyers and sellers use a contract from the Texas Real Estate Commission. The contract for one- to four-family existing homes runs eight pages. As you might imagine, it covers quite a bit more than just the purchase price.

You may want to go over the contract and discuss it with your Texas REALTOR® before making or receiving an offer. That way, you can work out any confusion before you find yourself facing an important decision, possibly with a deadline looming.

If you don't read a blank contract beforehand, you'll definitely want to look at it closely with your REALTOR® when you do fill it out or receive a contract offer from an interested buyer.

The contract is only one of many key documents that go into a transaction. You should never be embarrassed to ask for clarification about the seller's disclosure and other disclosure forms, loan applications and disclosures, appraisals, title commitments, surveys, contract addenda, and other documents. If you can't get a straight answer from a service provider, I recommend you ask your Texas REALTOR®.

Don't stop reading now

If you've never participated in a real estate closing, come prepared to sign. And sign and sign and sign again. Many people don't look at closing documents until they show up to the closing itself. They may glance at the title on a form and listen to a one-sentence explanation of the document's purpose before signing it. Occasionally, a person will read every page right at the closing table, slowing the process to a crawl.

A better approach is to request the closing documents prior to the day you close. You can then spend time reviewing the materials to make sure that you understand everything and that all facets of the transaction are properly represented. You also should check for accuracy. It's not unheard of for an error to pop up - either in the numbers or some other important aspect of the deal.

When you thoroughly examine the paperwork involved in purchasing or selling a home and rely on your Texas REALTOR® to assist you along the way, you minimize the chance of future surprises. After all, the documents you fill out and sign form the basis of a decision you will be living with for some time to come. For more information, I invite you to visit TexasRealEstate.com.

For your real estate needs, please contact RE/MAX Genesis at 830-833-2000.

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