Contracting Relations

I’m intrigued by the intersections of social and economic interests through texts, which attempt to capture or represent in two-dimensional forms messy, and multidimensional, human experience.

These conditions were recently evident when sellers had agreed to terms of a recent condo offer, which included a six month lease followed by the closing. My real estate agent submitted a signed offer, and the sellers reportedly showed their lawyer, who had approved and was adding local riders, which the sellers would send within the hour. Several hours later, the sellers informed the agent that they had received, and were going to accept, a higher offer even though they liked our offer better. 

At that point, the agent suggested that I could increase my purchase price offer, which in the end I couldn’t convince myself to do. I was less concerned, I explained, about a few thousand dollars higher purchase price — it was a beautiful condo and good for me — and more concerned about landlords who had already led me to believe they had accepted my offer, and were awaiting their lawyer’s documents, but then indicated they were going to accept another, and later, offer.

The agent argued that the sellers hadn’t done anything wrong and explained that she would have advised me to accept the higher offer. I indicated that I thought they hadn’t done anything legally wrong and asked if I had realistic expectations. Might these sellers, even if they hadn’t done anything illegal, use every advantage to enrich themselves, especially after I moved into the condo, at my expense?

My bigger concern was, and is, the gap between texts and experience. Contracts, I believe, are limited textualizations of human interaction. Such situations — both contracts and negotiations — require minimal trust, and this specific situation would require, as a result of an extended landlord-tenant relationship, even more trust.

Some might suggest that contracts, as texts, codify conditions, and thereby shift trust to these texts, and their construction. In contrast, I think contracts codify limits for transactions, which ultimately occur between humans. These texts, as such, are not ends but rather represent means to interactions and, as a result, relations.

I debated whether to elaborate for the agent but then decided against doing so — I could act, I realized, in ways that are similarly in my own best interest as long as I understand what I think that is. And I hope that I, in a similar situation, would use not legal but social standards and would, as a result, proceed with the accepted offer, which was being textualized, regardless of any alternative advice.

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