The Statutory Warranty Deed and the Form 17 together allow residential real property sellers to increase the value of the transaction by preventing an assymetry of information from otherwise reducing the value of a property, increasing the time involved in conducting a transaction, or both.
Assymetry of information – what is that?
Assymetry of information occurs when one party in a transaction knows much more about the value of the transaction than the other party, which here is the real property seller.
On the other side of the transaction is the potential real property buyer. This person might blythely go in to a transaction and not seek to figure out how they might get taken 6 ways to Sunday.
Or at the other extremene, potential real estate purchasers who are very cautious and overly subscribe to the maxim: Caveat emptor!
So again, to protect the unaware purchaser and prevent the cautious potential purchaser from wasting everyone’s time, the law has ingeniously come up with a way of assuring that there is no problem. This is the Statutory Warranty Deed and it is codified in RCW 64.04.030.
The Statutory Warranty Deed has three mandatory effects. The seller warrants: (1) they actually own all of the property which they are indicating they are selling; (2) there are no encumbrances on the property at the time of transaction [hence one of the major reasons for escrow]; (3) transfer of quiet and peaceable possession – and that they will defend the title … against all persons who may lawfully claim the same … .
Well, this last part is pretty hard for the seller to swallow. What if something happens after the transfer of possession which was not at all their doing.
It is the Form 17 which assists to solve this issue. It is the place where the seller can indicate those latent (i.e. known – by the seller – but generally unidentifiable issues which (a) the seller doesn’t want the purchaser to later sue them about and (b) if disclosed, the buyer can better evaluate and hopefully make an offer.
Sounds great, right!
There’s just one thing, the Form 17 – for which I invite you to look at the codified version at RCW 64.04.020 – has its most significant language written in … (drum roll please) … ALL CAPS!
NOW, ALL CAPITAL LETTERS ARE A RATHER SPECIAL PHENOMENON FOR LAWYERS. THEY HAVE THE DUAL EFFECT OF ALLOWING LAWYERS TO ARGUE THAT OF COURSE THE LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT OTHERWISE IT WOULD BE WRITTEN NORMALLY, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME BEING ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO READ.
For those of you who blazed right past that part, I’ll write it again in a form which might work a little better for you. The sentence above in bold type – to indicate importance – instead states:
Now, all capital letters are a rather special phenonenon for lawyers. They have the dual effect of allowing lawyers to argue that of course the language is important otherwise it would be written normally, while at the same time being almost impossible to read.
And what praytell might you find within the Form 17’s ALL CAP gibberish?
You are advised to obtain and pay for the services of Qualified Experts to inspect the property, which may include, without limitation, Architects, Engineers, Land Surveyors, Plumbers, Electricians, Roofers, Building Inspectors, On-Site Wastewater Treatment Inspectors, or Structural Pest Inspectors. (All Caps removed and bold added.)
Hmm? Now that’s interesting. Oh and by the way, guess how long you have to do all this?
Answer: Three (3) Business Days!
Now, per your real estate agent’s referall – which suggests that you should be on your toes because there is probably an ongoing relationship which redounds to the benefit of your real estate agent; NOT YOU – you probably have covered many of your bases by having an inspection performed.
However, regarding the fact that your neighbor’s fence is beyond the titled line, as the saying goes: Ignorance is Bliss!