Buyer sues agent for letting them pay too much for a home

Buyer sues agent for letting them pay too much for a home“Marty Ummel feels she paid too much for her house. So do millions of other people who bought at the peak of the housing boom.

“What makes Ms. Ummel different is that she is suing her agent, saying it was all his fault.”

I came by this story from today’s New York Times by way of the 1000 Watt Blog, one of my favorite daily stops.

Naturally, I can’t speak to the facts of this particular case and it’s my guess that it will be a difficult argument to make. However, the story should serve as a reminder to agents that there is more to representing a client than finding them a home and putting a contract together.

Ultimately, we are responsible to “protect and promote the interests” of our client. If they’re offering to pay more than market value, they have a right to know it. They depend on us to tell them the truth.

Nobody can predict the direction of a real estate market with absolute certainty, yet almost daily I hear from people who claim that a Saskatoon real estate agent has told them that prices are going to go through the roof this spring. Just three weeks ago, one agent stood in my office and relayed portions of a conversation he had with a buyer. “This house will be worth $X by spring. I guarantee it!”

“Hmmm…and I think you just did guarantee it.”

If your agent is using this kind of language, he or she may be either ignorant or reckless. I could be wrong, but it’s worth thinking about. 🙂

The full New York Times story is here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

The ethics of “bidding” for Saskatoon real estate

The ethics of bidding for Saskatoon real estateI came across an interesting “Letter to the Editor” in yesterday’s Star Phoenix which I wanted to touch on. The letter was submitted by Maureen Shebelski, a Saskatoon resident and mother.

Maureen’s decrial of the current state of the Saskatoon real estate market is a testimonial to her social conscience and it’s obvious that her concerns are sincere at every level. She points to the challenges and consequences which are inevitable in a market that experiences such rapid and significant change. Rising property taxes and insurance rates, increasing levels of debt, and uncertainty about the future are all things which are on Maureen’s mind right now.

I share many of the concerns which she expressed. I am also a parent, and coincidentally I have one daughter and one son, both young adults, so I’ve spent lots of time considering how this “new Saskatoon” will affect them. I’m also keenly aware that there are many residents in this fine city who will face challenges which will dwarf those that my own kids might experience as a result of this “boom.”

Maureen also takes the opportunity to place a little blame for what’s going on, starting with Premier Lorne Calvert and wrapping up with the real estate industry. She says, “I also blame the real estate industry and its new method of taking bids on houses, instead of taking offers. When my father was in real estate, there were some ethics involved. I don’t see that now.”

This attempt to “blame the real estate industry” and suggest that there is something unethical about “the new method of taking bids” would be easy enough for most to agree with, particularly those who are facing the challenge of buying a home in this market. Ultimately, it demonstrates a lack of understanding as to the role of a “seller’s agent” in the real estate transaction.

Since it is “ethics” which are questioned here, let’s take a look at some of the ethical guidelines which may apply from the Canadian Real Estate Association’s Code of Ethics which all REALTORS® are sworn to uphold.

Article 3 – Primary Duty to Client – A REALTOR® shall protect and promote the interests of his or her client. This primary obligation does not relieve the REALTOR® of the responsibility of dealing fairly with all parties to a transaction (Also appears in provincial statutory legislation in the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission Bylaws, section 702).

Article 12 – A REALTOR® shall render a skilled and conscientious service, in conformity with the standards of competence which are reasonable expected in the specific real estate disciplines in which the REALTOR® engages.

Article 18 – The business of a REALTOR® shall be conducted in strict accordance with all statutory and regulatory requirements.

Ethics and statutory regulation aside, we have volumes of agency law decisions which define an agent’s obligations to his or her client. Agency law provides a history of expectations which are considered reasonable and holds an agent accountable and liable for damages which result from a failure to act as a fiduciary to the person or persons who have hired them. In its simplest form, the agency relationship is founded on obedience, confidentiality, competence, disclosure, accountability, trust and loyalty.

Finally, the listing agreement used in Saskatchewan binds a seller’s agent to the following promises to his or her client;

  • obey the seller’s instructions on the Exclusive Seller’s Brokerage Contract and all lawful instructions of the seller;
  • represent the seller’s best interests;
  • fully disclose known facts which might influence the seller’s decision;
  • maintain confidentiality of personal and financial information discussed with the seller even after the Exclusive Seller’s Brokerage Contract expires;
  • safeguard the seller’s documents and money; and
  • exercise reasonable care and diligence.

I expect that most people do understand that multiple offers on a property most likely places the seller in the best possible position to negotiate a favorable price and terms. Given that are bound by a Code of Ethics, statutory law, agency law and our promise in writing to act with complete loyalty to the seller, how is it that we are viewed as “unethical” for making as many prospective buyers as possible aware that a client’s home is for sale? I would suggest that failing to make every effort to deliver the best result for a client would be unethical and unlawful.

Discussions which I’ve had with Al Jacobsen, Registrar of the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission and with Randy Katzman, a local real estate lawyer suggest that agents who fail to provide adequate exposure for a client’s property could be subject to both prosecution and civil litigation with potential consequences including large fines, license suspension or cancellation, and damages which might result from that negligence. Personally, I’m not much into any of that.

Every time that a seller’s home is sold without a reasonable level of exposure to the market, a betrayal is committed. Every time an agent brings a seller’s property to the market and provides buyers with reasonable access, a promise is fulfilled. Seller’s benefit and so does the community of Saskatoon real estate buyers.

Please don’t call the Saskatoon real estate community unethical for doing right by its sellers. They pay us a hefty chunk of change for representation and they deserve to get exactly what they’ve paid for; obedience, confidentiality, competence, disclosure, accountability, trust and loyalty. Acting as one’s agent is an honour and a privilege that should be taken seriously.

Read also: Deceptive agent practice could cost sellers money

Read also: Who is your real estate agent looking out for?

Read also: Premium Saskatoon homes sell while market is still at work

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Flip This House exposed: The “unreal” side of reality TV

Flip this house exposed: the unreal side of reality tv

This is not exactly important real estate news but I couldn’t resist writing a small snip about this story.

It seems that the popular A&E reality program, “Flip This House” has run a number of episodes which amount to nothing more than a sham. Featuring self proclaimed “real estate developer” Sam Leccima, the episodes represent his renovation projects as having been sold for huge profits. As it turns out, most of them haven’t actually sold and at least one of them wasn’t actually renovated.

To make matters worse, it’s clear that Sam Leccima is the target of a number of civil suits from prospective investors who trusted him to invest their money wisely. One gentleman claims to have lost $100,000 to the smooth talking television celebrity.

A&E claims to have no knowledge of the sham and they have pulled all episodes which feature Leccima from their re-run schedule.

Thanks to Doug Quance for the heads up on this bit. Doug is an Atlanta based agent who has been on top of this home town story since October of last year when he noticed some of Sam’s sold properties were still listed for sale.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Tenants burned by hot Saskatoon real estate market

Saskatoon renters feel the heat

The front page of today’s Star Phoenix says, “Tenants feel pinch: Heated market driving increases in rental charges.”

The story references the predicament of a Saskatoon woman, Marilyn LePage who faces her third rent increase in the last twelve months. She has written a letter to city council asking, “What can be done to keep rent increases and frequencies under control for myself and other Saskatoon citizens?”

The answer she received was sure to disappoint as council made it clear that “rent controls” fall outside of the local jurisdiction. City solicitor Theresa Dust reminded those present of past attempts by the province to place controls on rents and noted that it produced “poor results.”

This is one of the sad realities of a real estate market which is experiencing a growth spurt. It affects almost everyone, and those who don’t own their own home can be affected the most. They not only move further away from owning a home due to increased cost of housing, but they inevitably pay the price in higher rental costs as market values increase.

I expect that we’ll hear many more stories like Ms. LePage’s over the coming year. East-side apartment style condos are now selling in excess of $130,000. An investor who purchases such a unit with 25% down will face carrying costs of over $850 per month not including maintenance or insurance. At present, that same unit has a market rent of about $700. Assuming the unit is occupied every month of the year, the landlord is a couple of thousand dollars shy of covering expenses. They won’t be excited about that for very long.

At the same time, vacancy rates are falling across the city and that trend is expected to continue as more people move back to Saskatoon. Condo conversions will likely remove a number of units from the rental market over the next two years.

Ultimately, rents are subject to the principle of supply and demand just like resale real estate is. More renters and fewer rental units equal higher rent payments. It’s pretty much unavoidable.

Read the Star Phoenix story here

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Who is your real estate agent looking out for?

Who is your saskatoon real estate agent looking out for

If you’ve visited my blog before, chances are you’ve caught on to the fact that I’m very concerned about a practice which is occurring regularly which I believe is deceptive and hurtful to both buyers and sellers. It goes like this; the agent lists the seller’s property and promises to give the home full exposure to the market including all kinds of advertising and more importantly, MLS® service. He then does whatever he can to hide the listing from the market while he makes his best effort to sell the property himself, hoping to pocket the entire commission. Perhaps he lets a few of his best buds from the office in on the game, but for the most part he tries not to let anyone know it’s for sale unless he or someone else from his office has the chance to show it to the buyer.

Why should you care? Well, if you’re a home buyer it robs you of the opportunity to see and consider homes which were supposed to be listed MLS®. It limits your options. If you’re a seller, you should care because these practices are almost certainly going to cost you money; lots of money. Every agent knows that there is a pretty direct relationship between the number of prospective buyers for your home and the price at which your home will sell. If an agent pulls this trick on you, he has no shame. He is a deceptive, selfish person who thinks nothing of stealing from you. He certainly has no regard for the fiduciary duty which he owes to you as your agent.

At first, I was reluctant to bring it up. Now, I’m like a raving lunatic who can’t be stopped until this evil practice is dead. J Please forgive my rambling but I do take this business very seriously.

I did a little research today on Saskatoon and area real estate sales dating back to February 15.

Here’s what I found.

  • A seller is more than twice as likely to receive an offer which is above the list price if the buyer is represented by another real estate company (or brand). Last week the average overbid exceeded $6,000 and we’ve seen offers as high as 15% over list price in the past few weeks. As a home seller, you probably want to maximize the chances that it will happen for you.

  • Where a listing sold for less than the asking price, the average discount was just .4% if the buyer was represented by a different real estate company (or brand). The discount jumped to 2.4% when the same company (or brand) represented both the buyer and the seller. On a $250,000 home, the difference amounts to an additional $5,000.

I believe that this massive disparity is the result of agents who engage in the practice I’ve described. I can’t think of another reasonable explanation and I’m seeing it happen every day.

There is nothing wrong with entertaining offers from buyer who is working with your agent, or your agent’s company. However, if there aren’t any agents from other companies inquiring on your home, you may want to find out if your agent is playing “hide the listing.” We are currently experiencing the hottest real estate market I’ve ever seen. Make sure your agent is helping you take advantage of it, and not robbing you blind.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @SaskatoonHomes.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate