You probably know how many pages the California real estate sales contract has grown to (10-plus), but do you know why?

A quick glance at those pages makes you think that what you have before you is a work guarantee program for the legal profession — page after page of legalese boilerplate about required disclosures and mediation/arbitration, and on and on.

The point, however, is precisely the opposite. Real estate contracts look the way they do today in an effort to foresee and resolve most potential legal complications.

The goal is to keep the matter out of the courts and make it unnecessary to bring lawyers in to resolve through costly and tedious processes what could have been resolved far more easily — and at no cost — if the matter had simply been addressed before the transaction was complete.

All of which brings up one of the great paradoxes of the real estate profession. We can’t practice law (thankfully), but we are often obligated to explain certain legal matters to our clients. Why? Because real estate transactions, like it or not, have become minefields of potential legal problems. And you need and deserve all the help you can get in negotiating your way through that minefield.

Neglecting to disclose certain things to a buyer in writing in a timely fashion, for example, can bring fairly immediate penalties. Using a Realtor will enable you to get the guidance that you need to help prevent any disruptions from “taking over” your real estate transaction, and it will make that transaction as secure and profitable as possible.

Paul Suding, a real estate agent with Cool Santa Barbara Homes and Village Properties, is president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. He can be contacted at or 805.455.8055.