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Just get it in writing

Just get it in writing


I met with a seller recently who had a beautiful house in the Sonoraville area of Gordon County. When I say beautiful, I mean it. This house was immaculately kept and well maintained.


The seller was getting ready to move into an assisted living faculty and needed top dollar to provide for those accommodations for the remainder of her life.


Realizing she needed retail price for the home, I referred her to three agents in the area whom I trust. Consequently, one of my buddies got the listing, and it went under contract in only a few days. Everything was going great.


That was until the attorney’s title search tuned up something.


You see, the seller’s driveway crossed four adjoining properties. Normally this is a nonissue. To keep a property like this from being landlocked, the surrounding owners agree to grant their neighbor an easement, which is the right to cross or otherwise use another person’s land.


On this one, however, there was no official easement signed between all the property owners.


The seller in this situation had bought the land, built a beautiful house and had been using a driveway that they had maintained for years with no official easement. It had all been done on a handshake.


Banks are now requiring a formal easement to be in place before they will loan on a property. So, the attorney contacted all the property owners and asked them to sign one. They all agreed, and everything looked great – that was until the week before closing.


One property owner began to feel uncomfortable granting the new buyers — you know, someone they wouldn’t know — the right to cross their property. Consequently, they decided they were not going to sign the easement.


That was going to kill the deal and put our elderly seller into a really bad circumstance. She had already moved into an assisted living facility and was counting on the proceeds from the sale to pay for her $4,000-a-month stay. Now, if should couldn’t sell her house, she didn’t know what she was going to do.


One of my greatest teachers, Peter Fortuanto, said it best when he said that your legal documents are a memorial of when you have a meeting of the minds.


Once upon a time, your word was your bond and a handshake was all that was needed. These days, however, people seem to forget what they have agreed to once the moment has passed. That’s why it’s imperative once an agreement has been made to get things memorialized in writing as soon as possible.


You may think you need to run around with a pre-printed contract to do this, but that’s simply not the case. You just need to get something written down that states what the parties are agreeing to.


The girls at my attorney’s office often laugh at me. That’s because I regularly send them handwritten contracts on yellow paper and graph paper, and I’ve even sent one on the back of an envelope. And you know what? Those deals closed.


I’ve found that having a handwritten contract seems to put my sellers at ease. I think that’s because when I write them, I tend not to use legalese — you know, the language of lawyers. Instead, the sellers and I worked together to craft the document in plain English. This practice helps us to have a meeting of the minds and gives us a good written memorial of that fact that we both can understand.


So, the lesson here is that it doesn’t take a 10-page formal document to buy a house. All you need is to be able to come to an agreement and have a meeting of the minds. Then, just get it writing.



Back to our elderly seller. My realtor buddy and the closing attorney were finally able to get an easement from all parties in writing. She has since sold her house and now will be able to live out her days in comfort.


Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to or call Joe at 678-986-6813.

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