Aiding a client or customer in performing the sale contract is a big part of being a REALTOR®. In Oregon, as in most states, no commission is earned until and unless the buyer consummates the transaction by closing. It is hardly surprising then that much of the work of a REALTOR® takes place between acceptance and closing.
Aiding contract performance means understanding the Agent’s Role in Contract Performance. The responsibilities of an agent in aiding contract performance depends to a large extent upon the Client’s Contract Performance. The client’s contract performance is dictated by the law of contract, not real estate license laws.
Oregon courts have imposed a duty of Good Faith Performance of Contracts. Real estate agents should understand contract performance at least enough to know when to advise the client to see an attorney. It is for that reason that no discussion of contract performance would be complete without some mention of non-performance or, in legal terms, Breach of Contract.
Breach of contract is a more complicated subject than most REALTORS® believe. Some breaches of contract are material and some are not. A Material Breach is, of course, more serious than a non-material breach, but few REALTORS® can tell the difference between the two or what that difference means to contract performance. As if material and non material breaches of contract were not enough, every agent should have at least some understanding of the difficult subject of Anticipatory Breach.
No discussion of aiding the parties in the performance of their contract would be complete without some discussion of Handling Client Disputes. Client disputes include Pre-Closing Disputes as well as Post-closing Disputes. Post-closing disputes raise the possibility of Disputes Involving the Agent.
Finally, no discussion of real estate disputes would be complete without some discussion of Formal Dispute Resolution processes. Dispute resolution in residential real estate transactions usually means being involved in a mediation/arbitration process of some kind. If the dispute is strictly over money and the amount is not large, the dispute may end up in a Small Claims Court. REALTORS®, of course, are not expected to act as lawyers when a dispute arises. It is, however, important that REALTORS® know enough about formal dispute resolution processes to point their clients, or themselves, in the right direction should a dispute be unavoidable.
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