Two Things You Need to Know
As my readers know, I often represent real estate investors. When I draft a real estate contract I strive to make each provision absolutely clear in its meaning, and try to have it serve as a workable road map to closing. Occasionally a client will draft a real estate contract on its own (or have a broker draft it), and sign it without my review or input. The client will then send it to me “to close the transaction“. Though I counsel clients that this can be a remarkably risky practice, some clients . . . being clients . . . do as they wish and ignore my advice. Such is life.
When faced with closing a transaction governed by a real estate contract I did not have a hand in preparing, I do my best. It is usually not a complete disaster, but there are often misunderstandings because of provisions that are not entirely clear.
There are also situations where a provision in a real estate contract may be legally sufficient, but the seller and/or its attorney simply don’t understand the actual meaning of the provision. With a clearer provision the misunderstanding could be avoided, but the legal ramifications of certain provisions still are what they are, rather that what some imagine them to be. The following are two examples I have run into in the last week that I believe deserve comment and explanation:
NO MORTGAGE CONTINGENCY: Contrary to the understanding by some Seller’s attorneys and their clients, the fact that a real estate contract does not include a mortgage contingency – and may even expressly state that the transaction is not contingent upon the Buyer obtaining a mortgage – does not mean that the Buyer is not obtaining a loan and using mortgage financing. It simply means that the Buyer’s obligation to proceed to closing under the real estate contract is not contingent upon the Buyer obtaining a mortgage loan.
Many investor Buyers have strong relationships with their lender. They know what their lender requires, and know that the property they are acquiring will qualify as collateral for a mortgage loan from their lender. Consequently, they do not make obtaining a mortgage a contingency to closing in the real estate contract. Be that as it may, the Buyer may still obtain a mortgage loan, and may fund the property purchase using loan proceeds.
This is the practical equivalent to the situation where a real estate contract does contain a mortgage contingency, but the contingency has been satisfied because the Buyer has been approved for a mortgage loan. At that point the contingency expires and the contract is no longer subject to a mortgage contingency. The Buyer will still be closing using its lender and the proceeds of its mortgage loan. Probably no one disputes that.
Likewise, in a real estate contract where there is no mortgage contingency from the beginning, the absence of a mortgage contingency does not, without more, imply at all that there will be no mortgage lender. If the parties intend to provide that a contract is to be a cash transaction with no lender, that should be expressly provided in the real estate contract. Otherwise, the mere absence of a mortgage contingency does not mean there will be no lender – it simply means the Buyer is taking the legal and financial risk that a mortgage will be obtained.
2. AN “AS IS” CLAUSE DOES NOT MEAN NO INSPECTION: As with the absence of a mortgage contingency clause, as discussed in point 1 above, there seems to be some confusion about what an “AS IS” provision in a real estate contract means.
It has recently been suggested to me by Seller’s counsel that since the Buyer is purchasing property in “AS IS” condition that there is no need for the Buyer to have an inspection period with the right to inspect the condition of the property. To the contrary, where a Buyer has agreed to acquire property in AS IS condition, it is absolutely vital for the Buyer to have an opportunity to inspect the property, with the right to terminate the transaction if the condition of the property is materially worse than the Buyer expected. The AS IS provision in a real estate contract simply means that the Buyer does not expect the Seller to make any repairs to the property, or expect the Seller to provide closing credits for defective conditions in the property, and that the Buyer will not come back to the Buyer after closing seeking recourse for undisclosed defects.
Having a provision in an real estate contract providing for an inspection period during which the Buyer can thoroughly inspect the property and terminate the contract within that period if the property is physically deficient is not at all inconsistent with a provision that the Buyer is agreeing to acquire the property in AS IS condition. The need to inspect is a matter of due diligence for the Buyer. If the Buyer inspects the property (or fails to inspect the property) and does not exercise its right to terminate within the inspection period provided in the real estate contract, then the Buyer is bound to close regardless of the condition of the property – with the possible exception of additional damage occurring to the property after the contract date, or at least after expiration of the inspection period.
These are simple points, but they are misunderstood more frequently than one would hope or expect. To avoid needless misunderstandings, careful and meticulous drafting is a solution. But still . . . this is not rocket science.
Thanks for listening. . .
The post Your Real Estate Contract – Two Points to Consider appeared first on HARP – On This. . ..