Life may soon be simpler for the Washington area's 15,000 real estate agents and, by extension, home buyers and sellers: Local real estate associations are considering a single contract form that would be used for all home sales throughout the region.
Northern Virginia agents have been using one basic contract for sales in Virginia, Maryland and the District for about two years, and about half of all District agents use the same form, according to D.C. real estate agent Amy Fisher, who sits on the committee that drafted the five-page generic document. The committee has now submitted a second version to local real estate associations.
Fisher said agents in Montgomery and Prince George's counties rejected the earlier version because "they had just finished dealing with Maryland establishing a statewide contract" that forced them to relearn the quirky technical documents they deal with every day. Also, she added, because the first version was spearheaded by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, it addressed issues from the basis of Virginia law rather than Maryland law.
But Fisher was optimistic that the new proposal will pass muster. "We hope that by January the revised version will be in place" regionwide, she said.
The big selling point for agents, Fisher said, is that "agents across state lines can use the same basic forms for all contracts." Instead of having to search for language that turns up in one place in a Maryland form and in another place in the D.C. form, the agent would know where to locate those provisions in every contract, she said.
Because the sales contract will still have to include addendums for the specific state and county in which the property is located, buyers and sellers won't be dealing with less paper, Fisher said. But consumers will benefit, said Diane Ruggiero, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C., Association of Realtors, "because Realtors would know exactly what to look for in each contract and where to find it easily." That familiarity, said M. Anthony Carr of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, would better protect consumers from legal problems that might occur if an agent happened to miss a difference in contract wording.
If a generic contract is accepted, said Carr, "the 15,000 of us who are working here . . . would all be singing off the same sheet of music."
Ann Pell, president of the Prince George's County Association of Realtors, was less rhapsodic about the proposal, however. Although she said her group is "looking forward to having a regional contract," she maintained that it must meet the legal standards set by the group's attorney, who wrote the Maryland regional contract. "We'll do it if the association and [lawyer] Al Monshower agree that it can be done that way."