I’ve been in and around real estate for a long time — well over 30 years — starting with a weekend fill-in job answering telephones and setting showings at the local brokerage just up the street and around the corner from where I grew up. In all those years, I’ve sat through countless hours of training classes and seminars. Sometimes it feels like it all blends together into some amorphous thing I hope can be called “expertise.” The one lesson that stands out above all the others, though, can be summed up in two words: no surprises.
That was the crux of the training I received from my manager at the savings and loan when I started doing mortgage loans. It applies to all facets of the real estate transaction. Simply put, it means that the closing table is not the place for any surprises . . . from anyone. It is everyone’s job to make sure that every requirement has been met and every contingency has been removed. Closings should be a very simple — if somewhat tedious — affair. Everyone coming into the closing room should be absolutely certain of the eventual outcome. No surprises.
The basis for a “no surprises” closing, of course, is the basis of the entire transaction: the contract, which spells out every term and requirement that must be met before the title to the property changes hands. In Colorado, contracts to buy and sell real estate are required to be in writing. Because there are so many items that must be agreed to by the buyer and seller, that just makes sense.
In some parts of the country, real estate contracts must be prepared by attorneys. In other states, individual boards and associations draft their own “standard” contract that the brokers complete. In Colorado, our real estate commission, part of the state government, approves the standard contract that brokers must use unless specific circumstances exist.
Over time, of course, these standard contracts are modified to reflect changing standards of practice and methods of operation. These changes really struck me as I was completing more of my required continuing education. Thirty years ago, for example, meth labs were not part of the contract. Now, sellers are required to disclose information about the production, use, or storage of methamphetamines on the property. Change happens, but the direction we are moving is perhaps the greatest surprise of all.
Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable. — Jane Austen