Buyers, Forms, Attorneys, Realtors Oh My!

Mr. Thrifty, asks the following regarding Realtors giving legal advice:

Charles I have a question that may be a good post. Why do agents fill out purchase agreements for clients when giving legal advice is totally illegal for an agent to do? Do you believe, as I do, that buyers should have to either complete this form themselves, or admit to themselves that this is a legal document that they don’t fully understand the ins and outs of and will require legal advice. Unfortunately I think most buyers turn to their agent who then gives them illegal pseudo advice in the form coaching them through the answers and decisions based on what may or may not be best for their client. I mean why will buyer drop thousands on a agent that may or may not be helping them, and then balk at spending $600 on a few hours of competent legal advise. This baffles me to no end.

Realtors shouldn’t be giving legal advice or creating legal forms!  We use Oregon Real Estate Forms (OREF) forms for all of our real estate contracts and addendum.  Their website states:

OREF’s Forms Committee consists of legal counsel, a representative from the escrow industry and 10 representatives from around the state who meet monthly from February through August to review forms suggestions, revisions and statutory issues that may affect the forms.

Prudential Northwest Properties has a form called “NOTICE TO CLIENT REGARDING NON STANDARD PROPOSED DOCUMENTS AND LEGAL ADVICE” (their caps).   We use it in cases where the builder is or someone else is supplying the paperwork and that paperwork was presumably written by their attorneys!  It, in turn, be reviewed by the buyer’s attorney if there are any questions.

So to answer the question, no I don’t think that buyers should have to complete the Earnest Money Agreement themselves.  I know the forms we use and I know what is outside of my purview.  We do hand property disclosures to the seller and tell them to “fill them out the best you can because this is your representation of the property.  Nobody has ever gotten in trouble after the fact for disclosing too much up front.”  We review them and ask questions as we see necessary.  I do think some Realtors may be too free with the interpretation/presentation of documents.

Just like Realtors are not attorneys, we are not accountants, home inspectors, escrow offiicers or mortgage brokers either.  A good Realtor can advise through the entire process and defer to other professionals as the transaction requires.  The EMA is a legal contract so if a buyer has questions as to its ramifacations that aren’t clear from the 9 pages of text, they had best be seeking legal advice and their Realtor should be advising the same.  If Realtors never crossed the line there wouldn’t be a section about dispute resolution.

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