Archive for the ‘ethical violations’ Category

6 Types of Monkey Business Going on in Real Estate Now

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

If you are a real estate agent or a home buyer you may notice that the market is obviously low on inventory right now. Being that it is the “selling season” of Spring/Summer, and since there are a lot of buyers out there looking at homes, there are many situations involving multiple counter offers and homes selling for well over asking price…all great if you are a seller. However, there are also some fishy things going on out there and it is frustrating to agents and their buyers. th

Let’s take a look at what is happening:

1. Homes listed well over comparable value. Many, and I mean a LOT, of homes in North San Diego are being listed over market value – some slightly and some way over. Buyers, who normally would avoid such homes until the price drops, are flocking to them and making offers anyway. No one seems concerned that the home likely will not appraise, and if one buyer walks there are many more who will step right in. This is pricing out first time homeowners and bringing prices up…you may think the latter is good, but it is dangerous because such inflation could create problems for the market – especially when there are many buyers who have incomes that will price them out of neighborhoods they should have been able to afford had prices reflected comparable sold values.

2. Many sellers are taking a long time to respond to offers – even very strong ones. If a buyer makes a very strong offer over asking price, many listing agents are waiting for 4 or 5 days to even respond, during which time they collect more offers. Many then submit multiple counter offers to all bidders asking for the best and highest price. This prices many potential buyers out of the running, and most already submitted an offer slightly over their budget.

3. Sellers are refusing to make repairs or pay for reports. In a seller’s market the seller knows s/he is in the driver’s seat, and many sellers are countering back stating the home is sold as is, and that they will make no repairs and pay for no reports – like termite reports. They want the cleanest offers possible with the least amount of money out of pocket. This means the buyer can get stuck with multiple repairs, termite work, etc. If the buyer is already paying top dollar for the home, s/he has to make sure those things are affordable. No one wants to see a new foreclosure wave hit in a few years.

4. Appraisals are not coming in at contract value – but that is not deterring sales. I have not had problems with appraisals on listings (I don’t market properties in the “insane” price category), but have heard from many agents who have. Even if the home does not appraise at contract value, there are plenty of buyers who are willing to pay the difference in cash if sellers will not negotiate prices down to the appraised value. They feel that is the only way to secure a home purchase in these crazy times. Does this sound like 2003/2004 – “pre-crash” – to anyone else besides me?

5. Overly aggressive listing agents seem to be multiplying, and they are not being cooperative. There are many listing agents who are ruthless and even rude. They don’t care that your buyers love the home and have been looking in that neighborhood for a long time, or that they wrote a very strong offer and submitted it first. To these agents, it’s all about playing the game and finding the highest bidder. Some agents do not return calls and emails, and some violate the Realtor code of ethics – a few may even commit fraud. It is extremely frustrating for buyer’s agents, who are trying to find a home for their well-qualified buyers.

6. Pocket listings and homes listed “off the MLS” are increasing. Many agents are marketing their listings on third party sites like Zillow, and not placing them on the MLS – the cooperative tool used by Realtors to benefit all parties looking in particular areas/price ranges. While it is their right to do so, it makes a problem for buyer’s agents whose clients may see these listings and want to visit them – but when their agent calls the listing agent to make an appointment she is often told that the seller is not paying a commission to buyers’ agents. Imagine you have been helping your buyers for months to find a home and now you cannot show them this one home because the broker will not cooperate with your broker. It puts buyer’s agents – who play an imperative role in protecting buyer’s rights – in a very sticky situation. You may ask why listing agents do this: the answer is so they can find buyers who will work with them, thus saving the seller from paying out a commission to the buyer’s agent. Hopefully the California Supreme Court will soon put an end to double ending sales and this will no longer be a problem.

I am a bit concerned and hope that we are not heading into trouble in the real estate market. I hope that agents keep in mind the spirit of cooperation that is inherent in our business – we all need to work together and be fair. If we do not then buyers and sellers will not be protected from future lawsuits, and many people will be priced out of the housing market – which could cause a domino effect with local economies and eventually the US economy.

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Real Estate Agents Need More Rules

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

There are too many mistakes made by real estate agents – some come from a true lack of understanding of the legalities that are inherent in buying and selling real estate, and others from ignorance, selfishness or stupidity. But either way the fact is that real estate agents need more training and licensing requirements should be much stricter. images

I was contacted last week by a lady who felt she had been taken advantage of by her current agents. They failed to inform her about the process of accepting a particular tricky offer, and the ramifications associated with doing so, in order for her to  make an informed decision on whether to accept the offer. They did not explain many other things she had the right to know. She was beyond frustrated.

The reason this home seller called me is that she had been referred to me, and liked my legal background – she wanted to fire her agents and have me list the home. I counseled her on the terms of her listing agreement, and provided options and advice; in the end I told her she should try to resolve issues with her current agents so that she could get her home sold since they had already done so much work, while renegotiating some terms and making clear that she needed to be kept in the loop throughout the process. She said she felt much better after speaking with me, and I was glad to help.

The listing agent team she was working with is seasoned, so I was rather surprised that they did not provide information and explanations on many of the forms and processes that come with selling a home. They also charged a 6% commission fee, and they offered 2.5% commission to the selling agent, so they were planning to make 3.5% on the sale! She tried to negotiate with them but they would not do so. She was told that was standard and she had no idea that commissions are negotiable. But I am more disgruntled with other aspects of the sale that I feel were not handled properly.

It is time our national, state and local associations set up mandatory training programs for every agent, and license renewal programs that touch on much of that training so that agents are reminded of their professional and legal responsibilities every time they have to renew their license. Here are some suggestions:

1. Real estate exam – this needs to be more difficult and more expensive to take – that will keep those out who are only in it because they think they will make a lot of money.

2. Across-the-board mandatory training programs – these need to be implemented for all new agents – every broker must comply. This will ensure that all new agents have the same degree of basic knowledge about real estate and law, and the practicalities of sales (forms, paperwork protocol, transaction management, etc.).

3. Stricter license renewal requirements – these also need to be addressed, because the license renewal requirements could be more challenging.

4. Stricter punishment for ethical violations and breaking of laws – as the current rules stand in my state, an ethical violation may or may not be punished – it all depends on whether the agent on the other side of the violation, or a disgruntled buyer or seller – reports the behavior. Unfortunately many do not, because they do not want to be involved in a situation where they are pointing a finger. Agents especially do not like to get involved in ethical hearings because they feel their reputation may be at stake for calling out a fellow agent – thus many unethical agents continue to slide downhill. Punishment is also not meted out often enough or enough to match the crime. The same is true of agents who break laws, like committing fraud. Reporting and punishment need to change.

The real estate business would benefit immensely from the above changes – real estate agents would be a more educated, professional and savvy group of people, and home buyers and sellers would win in the biggest way.

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5 Top Ethics Errors Made by Real Estate Agents

Friday, February 12th, 2016

If you are a regular reader you know that I have a thing for ethics and those who violate the boundaries of professionalism in any field. We’ve all known of someone who crosses or has crossed the line. The real estate industry is no exception. Here are the most common ethics breaches made by real estate agents: Ethics

1. Going after other agents’ clients. Amazing, but yes there are slimy people out there. This actually just happened to me – another agent took advantage of my client in a very sneaky way. When an agent knows that someone is a client of another agent, to go after that person in order to get them to work with you is not just unethical, but it’s nasty. Karma will get all those people one day, but they really should not be in the business if they cannot be professional and respectful. That agent’s reputation will suffer, especially among area agents.

2. Not disclosing relevant information. This happens all too often. Some agents actually advise their sellers to NOT disclose information that could affect a sale – such as problems that have occurred in the home (broken pipes, electrical problems, roof leaks, etc.). Again, not only is this an ethical violation but it is illegal. Many lawsuits are initiated because buyers were not made aware of past problems – it is one of the main reasons for real estate lawsuits. I tell all my sellers that it is better to over-disclose than leave anything out. If you lay it out on the table it is up to the buyer to check out any issues and make informed decisions.

3. Telling home inspectors not to notify of problems or directing what should/should not be in a report. It is hard to believe but there are agents who do this. One home inspector told me that a successful area agent once told him not to notify him (the agent) of any problems concerning the roof, and to leave them out of the report! I couldn’t believe that. That is far more than an ethical violation – it is illegal. Things like this apparently go on all the time. Thus the reason you need an excellent home inspector that you trust, and also whom your client can trust. Mine is also a civil engineer and a licensed contractor – a little piece of mind goes a long way in preventing problems and legal action down the road.

4. Taking referral fees from lenders or others specified by law or statute as not allowable. This is a big no-no: unethical and also illegal.

5. Giving a client advice that is not in their best interests in order to secure a sale. Clients need to make their own decisions on whether or not to buy or sell a property. The role of the agent is to make sure the client receives all the pertinent information in order to make an informed decision. I never make decisions for my clients – rather, I offer my expertise in answering their questions and concerns. If there are problems with the property that are inherent and could cause issues down the road, I always point that out and suggest expert advice when needed. The ultimate decision belongs to the client – our role is to facilitate providing information. Encouraging a client to buy or sell when it may not be in their best interests is unethical.

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There are many other glaring examples of ethical breaches in the real estate industry, and there is always the agent who invents a new one. But the above 5 examples are perhaps the most dangerous because they are crossing over into breaking laws and could have legal consequences. This is why all agents need strong training programs and continuing education to keep them abreast of new rules and laws.

The real estate industry needs to crack down on agent training and make cross-the-board mandatory programs, as well as stricter licensing requirements. Brokers also need to take responsibility with stricter oversight of their agents (if I was paid $1 for every time I had to call another broker to report something their agent did that jeopardized a contract, I would have a lot of dollars). Until such changes are set in motion we will unfortunately see more ethical/legal violations in the industry.

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