• A real estate transaction involves lots of paperwork.
  • The contract provides some level of protection to both parties.
  • It does not eliminate the possibility of problems.

A daunting document for agents and consumers alike, The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors’ agreement of sale has only grown in length over the years.

I wish I had more confidence that consumers fully understood what they were signing when they put pen to paper. Disagreements arising from real estate sales often involve assertions that the contract was not thoroughly explained. People should refuse to sign anything that is not crystal clear to them.

Consumers often complain that the paperwork has become too complicated. The documents we use are constantly reviewed at the state and local levels and most alterations reflect changing laws.

In Pennsylvania, we use a “fill in the blank form” approved at the state level. In addition, our Code of Ethics warns against “practicing law” so we are limited in what we can add to the standard form. The essence of the agreement is that it records the details agreed upon by the parties.

By making an offer, negotiating it and accepting a final version, both parties agree to perform certain tasks necessary to protect themselves as well as to satisfy the needs of the other.

Ironically, many of my older clients have commented that the current contract is less binding than a good old-fashioned handshake “back in the day.” Does a signed document really bind both parties?

Legally, I presume a properly executed and delivered contract is enforceable if a party wants to enforce it. But doing so, however proper it may seem, costs both dollars and time.

While I expect my client and the other principal to take the executed contract seriously, I have come to realize that all agreements, no matter how lengthy, detailed, or seemingly binding, are based on one simple word. That word describes what used to make a simple handshake so valuable: trust.

Once I return an executed contract to a real estate agent, I expect that agent, his or her client, and my client to live up to the responsibilities set forth within the agreement.

Anything that prompts a modification to the agreement should be properly reported and addressed in a timely manner.

Trust is expected. It can be reinforced or lost over the course of a single transaction. This unspoken promise carries forward as agents and consumers work together again and again.

Once lost, the path gets more difficult.

Andrew Wetzel is an associate broker with Long and Foster Real Estate in Havertown, Pennsylvania. Follow Andrew on Facebook or Twitter

Email Andrew Wetzel

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Keep up-to-date on tools and tactics to impress your clients and outshine your competition with the 2022 virtual bundle.Register Now×
Agent Appreciation Sale: Inman Select for only $85.CLAIM OFFER×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription