By Lydia Blair
When you review contracts every day, spotting mistakes can become routine. The number one mistake that most escrow officers see on real estate contracts involves blank spaces.
To be clear – contracts should always be filled in completely. There should be nothing left blank.
I’m referring to the standard Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) contract. Ninety-nine percent of real estate contracts received by title agencies are written on one of the standard TREC contracts. These are created by TREC for use in real property transactions in our state. They are frequently reviewed and are updated every few years based on feedback, requests, and legal issues.
There is a valid reason for each paragraph and blank space on these contracts. There are dozens of blank spaces on the most popular TREC contract. They all should have something on them. Some paragraphs have an option to choose from two or more boxes to check. One of the choices should be selected.
Yet, we see smart people submit final contracts that leave too much ambiguity because they are not fully completed. Obviously, most folks ensure the contract contains the proper names, address, sales price, who is paying for what, etc. But often they leave some parts of the contract incomplete.
How do we know the intention of all parties when a space is left blank? Perhaps the blank space means zero dollars. Then it should have a zero written. Or maybe it is not applicable? It should show N/A. Maybe it was accidentally missed? Or was it intentionally ignored? Even dashes in the space helps us see that the parties didn’t intend to mean something else.
If a space is blank because buyer and seller are still negotiating, then the contract should not be executed yet. Once it is executed, any changes must be made with an addendum. Changes are not allowed on the finalized contract once it is executed.
The riskiest and most overlooked blank spaces typically found on contracts include:
Paragraph 2D: Exclusions. If there are no exclusions, then write None. Plenty of disputes arise when a seller takes an item (like a favorite light fixture) and forgot to note it in the contract.
Paragraph 6A(8): There are 2 boxes regarding survey coverage and one of them should be checked. Who is paying for the survey coverage should also be documented.
Paragraph 6C: Who will provide the survey, when will they provide it and who will pay for it if a new one is needed. More details on this paragraph are in this article.
Paragraph 6D: Put a number in the blank for number of days that the buyer has to object to title or survey issues. Most folks don’t think this blank really matters – until it really does.
Paragraph 7H: Will the seller be purchasing a home warranty for the buyer? If not, put zero in this blank. If so, fill in an amount they are willing to pay.
Paragraph 12A(1): If the seller is paying any of the buyer’s closing costs, fill in the amount. Otherwise make it zero.
Paragraph 21: Please, please, please fill in the buyer and seller contact information. Without it, we have no way of contacting these people and there is no way to given them notices, documents, etc. The title company can attempt to track people down. But they may not receive crucial information in a timely manner if we have no way to reach them. Leaving this space blank can drive title agents to swear.
Fill in the blanks to avoid turning your document into a blankety blank contract.
The opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contact an attorney to obtain advice for any particular issue or problem.
Lydia Blair (formerly Lydia Player) was a successful Realtor for 10 years before jumping to the title side of the business in 2015. Prior to selling real estate, she bought, remodeled and sold homes (before house flipping was an expression). She’s been through the real estate closing process countless times as either a buyer, a seller, a Realtor, and an Escrow Officer. As an Escrow Officer for Carlisle Title, she likes solving problems and cutting through red tape. The most fun part of her job is handing people keys or a check.