Chris Griffith: Full disclosure and paper cuts

CHRIS GRIFFITH

About a decade ago I faxed (fax machines were once bleeding edge) a contract to a prospective real estate purchaser. She worked in the Pennsylvania school system and gave me a number at work to fax it to. A few hours later she called and said, I had no idea it would be that many pages. Why are there so many pages? At the time it was a mere 12 or 13 pages, total.

Since then, contracts have gradually expanded from 4 pages to 10 pages. On top of that, there is a disclosure for just about everything except for disclosing the hair color of the buyers placing the offer. I just glanced at my last sales contract which happened to be a modest condo with no bank involvement or legal issues — 22 brilliant white pages, half of the pages were contract and the other half disclosures.

Since we live in such a litigious society, it only takes one little lawsuit to inspire a new disclosure that will hopefully be a preventative measure to deter a similar situation from happening again. Buyers and sellers of real estate are consumers and the powers that be in the state of Florida want to make sure the consumers are protected and that they’ll enjoy their shopping experience. That is good … and with that protection comes the paperwork.

For example, they want to make sure you don’t wake up and suddenly realize that with your home purchase you ended up belonging to a homeowner association that you didn’t know you were going to belong to … and it’s mandatory. (Insert ominous echo.) It obviously happened to someone, somewhere or the proper fee wasn’t disclosed to the buyers and that’s how that disclosure was born.

Any legal measure generally boils down to money and consumer safety. As a consumer they’re trying to make sure your money is safe, there are no hidden expenses or fees and, after you move in, your family lives in an environment free from toxins or hazardous materials.

There are disclosures, such as the defective drywall disclosure and a mold disclosure that are meant to protect your money and safety and disclose that a buyer is permitted to obtain those inspections at their own expense, of course. Certainly consumers from outside of the area may not know about or understand defective drywall so it brings it to their attention, or a new level of worry. It’s currently a mandatory disclosure by many real estate brokerages in the Southwest Florida area, whether the home was built in 2004 or 1973.

There’s a mountain of disclosures that accompany real estate transactions these days. It’s not going away any time soon. Hopefully, your agent will be joining the paperless movement so you can sign documents electronically and if you’re fortunate the lender involved will recognize and accept electronic signatures on the contract. They didn’t like fax machines once, either.

Before electronic signatures are mainstream, consumers will still be printing, signing and scanning a couple dozen pages just to make sure everyone is properly informed and that all material facts and defects are disclosed to all parties. The paper cuts and spent ink cartridges are the cost of doing business.

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Chris Griffith is a real estate agent at Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Bonita Springs. If you have a question about local real estate or Bonita Springs, e-mail her at chris@LifeInBonitaSprings.com.

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