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a feme sole: of options, alternatives, and offers

Saturday, May 1st, 2010 by

“A feme sole” is not misspelled, or in French.  That’s from North Carolina real estate law § 47‑69 pertaining to a married woman who “was a free trader by her husband’s consent” (anyone else see the contradiction there?) at the time of transfer of real property (read:  land).   Circa 1913.  She’s a “feme sole” when she trades freely—by her husband’s consent, of course.

This is just to illustrate how arcane and confusing law is in general and specifically around real estate.  As we ponder making an offer on a piece of land in North Carolina, we’re learning about Alternative 2, and option fees as opposed to earnest money, and when to offer how much or how little.

Alternative 2 is something apparently particular to North Carolina, wherein a potential buyer can put down a small chunk of money to hold a house or piece of land while they ponder whether they want it, then—after a specified amount of time—they can say “nope, changed my mind” for any reason or no reason and walk away.  Leaving the chunk of money behind.  Word is that Alternative 2 will become the only alternative soon in NC, but in the meantime we’re having to decipher what sums to pony up for that option fee, which isn’t the same as earnest money, which is the option that’s actually an Alternative, which is still not the actual Offer, which makes me Wonder what our Options really Are.

Sorry.  Attack of Capitalization.  It Won’t Happen Again.

It’s just that when you want understandable information about legal issues, you’ll find it hard to decipher once you get to it.  After years spent working with lawyers and doctors and PhDs, I can tell you while they may appreciate the value of clear communication they are reluctant to abandon multisyllabic words and complex sentence structures.  Apparently the idea is if you can’t read it, you should learn to.  All those extra letters and breaths spent talking show how smart a person is, or at least how much somebody spent schooling them.

All this makes me think of something I first heard about years ago as regarding Native Americans and their early beliefs (before Europeans came along and screwed everything up) about land.  They didn’t believe a person could really own land as such; if you lived on and worked a piece of land, you could sort of claim a certain right to do so, but if you rolled up your tent and went somewhere else, that land was no longer yours.  No deeds, or certificates, or forms, or offers, or options.  The tribe had what passed for ownership, so if you did take your tent and leave, somebody else—maybe a feme sole—could move in and take up where you left off.

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One Response to “a feme sole: of options, alternatives, and offers”

  1. Lin Teichman says:

    You sure you want to do this? Just reading about the legal issues are turning my hairs gray. Can’t wait until you are deciding doorknobs.

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