What is the difference between the CAR and PRDS purchase agreements? Does it matter which contract is used?

In most of California, the purchase agreement form used when writing an offer to buy residential real estate is the California Association of Realtors (CAR) form, the Residential Purchase Agreement (CAR-RPA).  Along the San Francisco Peninsula and in Silicon Valley, though, often we use another form, the Peninsula Regional Data Service purchase agreement (PRDS contract).  Few consumers know that there is a choice of forms to use when buying Silicon Valley real estate.  And too many real estate sales people do not understand the difference between them.

Does it matter which one you use?  It certainly does!

While anything in the boilerplate can be modified (deleted or added to), the basic text is not identical from one to the next, and neither are the ramifications to buyer and seller.  Here are a few examples:

Property condition: one is an “as is” contract and the other requires that the property be delivered with a warranty of condition (no leaks, no cracked glass, no structural defects in chimneys, all systems operational, etc.)

Repairs in escrow: one says that repairs must be by a licensed contractor, the other that repairs must be done in workmanlike manner (can be done by anyone)

Defaulting: one contract has more ”teeth” with buyer or seller defaults than the other

There are pros and cons to each of these two forms. A skilled agent is “bilingual” in both, understands the strengths and weaknesses of each one, and can modify as needed the form to benefit the client. What is tricky, even for Realtors who work with both sets of realty forms, is that they keep changing.  So there can be confusion on what is and isn’t covered, or the way in which various aspects of the contract are addressed.  Let’s look at some examples of why it matters which real estate contract you use in the San Jose area.