This article is the first in a series of considerations when buying or selling real estate in Washington.
Washington follows the “objective” theory of contract interpretation. Courts look to the language of the contract to determine the parties’ intent. Washington courts may consider evidence outside the contract to determine the meaning of the contract language, but will not use outside evidence to infer a meaning independent of the contract language. In order to avoid having to explain to a court what you thought a contract provision meant after-the-fact, craft contract language to precisely reflect your understanding of the terms of the deal. When a party to the contract doesn’t want to memorialize something in writing, this must be viewed as a red flag. Better to write down too much than too little. Also, writing down contract provisions is more important amongst family members, contrary to common understanding. Contracts are what maintain good relationships; not the opposite.
Although Washington requires sellers to make substantial disclosures, it is critical that a buyer investigate all potential circumstances of a parcel. A good strategy is to assume nothing and check everything. If a buyer has notice of a problem and fails to investigate, the seller will most likely win if it goes to court. Failure to investigate a condition or circumstance of a parcel when given notice does not constitute an excuse later on for remedy. There is no remedy for a circumstance that wasn’t expected, if notice was given however subtle.
This posting is not legal advice. Legal advice is based on specific facts. This information is necessarily general in nature.