Real Estate Laws in Washington State

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Real estate laws serve two purposes in Washington: to clearly define the transfer of real property from one owner to another and to regulate the licensing and activities of real estate brokers. Real property includes land and anything affixed to the land, according to Washington Real Estate Fundamentals, and brokers represent an interested party in the sale of real property. Most laws established in Washington regarding real estate protect buyers and sellers during and after the sale of real property.

Deeds

  • Ownership of real property in Washington is established by deed. More than one type of deed may be used to state who owns a property, but every conveyance of real estate or contract creating an encumbrance on real estate must be accomplished with a deed, according to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). To be legal, a deed must be in writing and signed by the appropriate parties and witnessed by a notary or authorized person, as stated in RCW 64.04.020. A warranty deed is used in most real estate sales in Washington and states the legal description of the property as well as the owners' legal names and grants full ownership rights to the owners. Bargain and sale deeds are often used by banks who own property after a foreclosure and quit claim deeds are often used to transfer ownership between family members or following a name change.

Purchase and Sale Agreements

  • Also known as earnest money agreements, according to the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA), purchase and sale agreements are the most commonly used contracts to complete real estate transactions. Contract laws apply to purchase and sale agreements and detail the rights and responsibilities of each party, according to WSBA. Buyers agree to pay the accepted price and receive free and clear title to the property, while sellers typically agree to allow the buyer to inspect the property and disclose any known defects with the property under the terms of a purchase and sale agreement in Washington. Most real estate brokers and attorneys use a purchase and sale agreement to complete a real estate transfer of property, although it is not a legal requirement.

Real Estate Brokers

  • Real estate brokers, known as salespeople until a law change in 2010, represent home buyers and sellers in the sale of a home. Brokers are agents of their clients and have fiduciary duties to use reasonable skill and care, deal in honesty and good faith, present all written communications, disclose material facts, account for trust funds, according to Washington state law. The Department of Licensing requires brokers to be 18 years of age, hold a high school diploma or equivalent and complete 90 hours of coursework before passing a license exam. Brokers must renew their licenses every two years and attend 30 hours of in-service training.

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