Real estate people, in general, would rather have dumb customers who follow their instructions so they could move on to the next and many customers quickly. The seasoned person I am now would never allow such an answer to sway me again and would ask for clarification from her boss and go up the chain if need be.
If in the same situation again, what is my recourse short of hiring a lawyer to read and clarify the wording to me and void any penalties that 1. I must pay, 2. delay escrow, and 3. that the escrow or other party may use as an excuse to penalize me for not finalizing the transaction as agreed?
First, what’s the harm in hiring an attorney to review your documents? The cost may be $300 to $500 (unless there are major complications, in which case you really want a lawyer on your side) and will give you peace of mind.
Second, regardless of whether you retain a lawyer, you have the right to demand that you receive a copy of all legal documents you will have to sign in advance of the actual settlement (escrow) date. You should be able to review those documents at least two to three days in advance.
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