Let’s Be Clear

Recently, I went into a clothing store to look around and let the sales clerk who has an unusually high opinion of his fashion sense believe that I was going to purchase something – it’s always fun to tease those guys! As I was milling about, the following occurred:

Older Woman (approaching younger woman): “What are you looking for?”
Younger Woman: “Owen.”
Me: “You’re not going to find him in that rounder of shirts. I just looked through it and didn’t find anybody.”

Both women first looked at one another and then looked at me with a quizzical look on their faces – no words. I just smiled back at them. They narrowed their eyes and fixed me with a cold, hard stare as they backed away (and I just kept smiling and didn’t break eye contact with them – it was an epic staring contest).

What in the name of all that is holy and licensed by Disney does this have to do with mortgages and real estate, you ask. Well, absolutely nothing, really. I just thought it was funny and thought you might find it a teensy bit humorous, too. I’m only kidding. Like the exchange described above, the choice of wording can take things in unintended directions.

Wording, in a real estate contract, is SUPER important. I’ve seen some contracts where one of the agents, who clearly missed her/his calling to be a novelist (a really bad one, I might add), had inserted an addendum that was so long they contained plot twists no one saw coming and characters with a penchant for stealing avant-garde art installations while sipping cheap wine from Nebraska – and at the end of it all, the only thing they really wanted to convey was the fact the buyer wanted the seller to leave the washing machine but not the dryer. I’ve seen other contracts with hand-written margin notes that resembled markings found on the Rosetta Stone (that will probably take longer to decipher without help). In many cases, all of this is at the behest of the client who wants to make sure everything is “in writing”. I’m going to let you decide amongst yourselves how you want to address that, but at the end of the day, you want to make sure everything is clear to ALL PARTIES. A simple rule of thumb: write like you’re trying to make sure a sixth-grader will understand your message. (I’ll let you insert your own comments here – I’ll wait.)

What MOST agents and their clients don’t know is that in a real estate contract, from the mortgage side of things, there are certain things that can be written in/added that can absolutely KILL the deal – and there are others that can cause some major damage and will take time (and some pixie dust) to heal. Whether the deal is killed or maimed, the end result is the same: DELAYS – and NO ONE wants those! My biggest recommendation is a simple one: before you put on your creative writing hat and start spilling ink to get your demands in writing, give your favorite lender a call (I know a really good one) and just run your ideas by them. It’ll save you a lot of time from looking for the proverbial Owen in a rounder of shirts, believe me.

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