Contractually speaking - 25th October, 2007

It was interesting to read solicitor Tim O’Dwyer’s comments last week about the apparently parlous state of contract preparation within the real estate industry, not least of all because they came almost four months after the rules relating to real estate contracts changed. Tim’s assertion, that agents who amend contracts on behalf of buyers and sellers are now effectively breaking the law, implies that somehow agents would have a vested interest in doing so; as though they might have something to gain by not doing everything to the letter of the law. This is plainly ridiculous. It also creates a picture of recklessness and insufficient training among real estate agents, when of course the reality is that contract preparation is a critical component of the modern real estate training curriculum – ultimately overseen by the legal profession through the conveyancing process. (In my business’s case, voluntary membership of the REIQ additionally entails commitment to ongoing Best Practice training and participation in the association’s comprehensive Continuing Professional Development Program – added reassurance for consumers that we really know our stuff.) Importantly the current system of contract preparation is a highly efficient one for buyers and sellers, ensuring their specific needs and points of negotiation are couched within the terms of their contract. It is also extremely cost-effective for consumers, ensuring their legal fees are limited only to essential conveyancing costs. The alternative, a system whereby lawyers prepare contracts from the outset, potentially riding roughshod over the nuances of consumers’ specific conditional requirements, would not only cost buyers and sellers thousands of extra dollars per contract, but it would also mean that they would still incur legal fees for those occasions when contracts fall over – as they inevitably do at times. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for changes to the real estate industry that increase its capacity to deliver a highly professional and ultimately transparent service, but I fail to see how unnecessarily lining lawyers’ pockets with families’ hard-earned cash is good for anyone bar lawyers. Until next week … Gerard Baden-Clay Principal, Century 21 Westside