October 2022 Archives

Every so often, someone who thinks they're a wit sends me a copy of The Rules For Relationships According To Women. Unlike those rules, which might have been funny around the time Nefertiti was a debutante, there are very few rules for mortgage payments, but they real and they are not based upon caprice.

Recently, I was walking through a grocery store parking lot and heard someone screaming on their cell phone, "It wasn't my fault! The broker told me not to make that payment, and then they didn't pay the loan off on time!" Which leads me to Rule Number One: It is YOUR responsibility to make all payments on time. Nobody else. Your name is on that contract, not theirs. Under text that says essentially, "I agree to repay this loan on these terms." When you are in the process of refinancing or selling, make it a point to keep paying that mortgage on time and in full. The worst thing that will happen is that you will get a check back a couple weeks later. Whereas if you blow the payment off, you are taking the risk, as happened to this person, that some incompetent person doing your new loan will not get the loan done in time to make the payment date. On the sixteenth, there's a penalty due. On the thirty-first day, it hits your credit, where it can conceivably make a difference of 150 points. And if the lender is getting ready to fund the loan the next day and runs your credit then and sees your drop, the terms of your loan just got worse, if they can fund the loan at all. It is the mark of a bad loan officer to tell you not to make your payments. A good one will specifically tell you to continue to make payments on time. I haven't blown a rate lock in a very long time, but there's always the possibility it might happen and the loan takes longer than I think it will. Don't let it happen to you. Make your payments on time, whatever you're doing.

Corollary to Rule Number One: You are responsible for getting it to them. All of this nice convenient stuff about mailing a check or sending the payment online is quite a convenience, but they do not legally have to do it. Your grandparents had to walk the check (or the cash) in every month. You can still do this if your lender has branches and you suddenly remember on the 15th that you forgot to make your mortgage payment. Many lenders are very forgiving about this. But they don't have to be,

If that payment doesn't get made on time, it is your fault. End of discussion. If you mailed it off on time and it got lost in the mail, you are the one that owes the penalty. If you transferred the money online, and it somehow doesn't get credited to the right account, it is your fault. These don't happen often, but they do happen. No matter the reason, you are responsible for getting that payment to that lender on time. If you don't understand this, or cannot live by it, don't get a mortgage. The lenders are actually very forgiving about it, provided you can convince them that the payment was made. The one time I had a check lost in the mail, they called me on the 17th, and I walked the check into the branch next day, and they waived the late fee. but all of that was because I had a solid record of paying well in advance of the deadline. If you're good enough about paying on time, sending the check on the first even though it's not officially late until the 16th, they're usually pretty forgiving about checks that get lost. On the other hand, if you are always paying on the last possible day, the lender is going to regard that late fee as the least they are due. While you are at it, always include something with your account number on it when you send the money. Write it on the check, include a coupon, put it in comments. Otherwise the lender could easily end up misapplying the funds of the check, especially if they figure to use the address on the check, and you're making a payment on another property. Most of the time they do get it right. But if they don't, it's your fault. If they get the payment with all of the necessary information and misapply it, that's their fault. If they didn't get it, on time or at all, or missing some important information, it's your fault.

There is no rule two, at least that I can think of right now. There is only one rule, but you violate it at your extreme disadvantage.

Caveat Emptor

Original here

It's not difficult to see how some of the weakest agents and loan officers I know make lots of money. They work for an office of a well advertised chain, and when they get the walk-in traffic, no matter what happens, it's "A great property," or "a great loan." Nice place, priced a hundred thousand above where it should be? "Great property!" Attractive on the surface, but has a cracked foundation that's going to cost a hundred thousand to replace? "Great Property!" A 2/28 a full percent above what you could have had with a thirty year fixed, and with a couple thousand dollars in extra closing costs? "Great Loan!"

It's like working with a cheerleader.

A lot of ex-cheerleaders make a very good living as real estate agents and loan officers. The personality types are a good fit for sales, whether it be real estate or loans. Enthusiastic about everything, no matter how messed up it is. Their answer is always, "We can do it!". The people who don't understand what's really going on, and don't compare it seriously; they hear a putative expert going on like this, and all their warning reflexes get defused. It's human psychology, that when all the barriers should be going up in such situations, they go down instead.

Here's a cold hard fact: There's no such thing as a perfect situation in real estate. No matter what you're doing, buying, selling, or getting a loan, there are always trade-offs. Sometimes the trade-offs are obvious, as with loans, where there is an explicit tradeoff between rate and cost. Sometimes, they're not so obvious or direct, as when comparing between properties for sale. You can understand those trade-offs, and choose the one most advantageous to you, or you can choose in ignorance, metaphorically stamping "sucker!" on your forehead.

A stronger agent or loan officer will explain those choices, and put the consequences of each in context. "This one is $50,000 more, but has another bedroom, another bathroom, and is 300 square feet larger. This one is $40,000 less, but it's going to cost you $80,000 to fix the foundation. This one is $30,000 less, but it's going to cost you about $10,000 for carpet and paint." On the loan side, "You can have a thirty year fixed rate loan at 6.5% for a total cost of $1500, as yield spread will pay the rest, or you can have 6% for a total cost of $8000, or you can have a 5/1 ARM at 6% for $3000, or a true zero cost 5/1 ARM at 6.375%" . An informed choice requires knowledge of both reasons for and against a given option. I don't try and tell them which property to make an offer on or which loan to like more. I can present one in a better light than another, but making the choice is not my job. My job is explaining the consequences of the choices the clients make before they're stuck with them, because in real estate, like everywhere else that matters in real life, there are no "do overs".

People like to be told that everything is going to be easy. But that's not the way to get a good bargain in real estate. You shop for the best loan, force loan officers to compete, compare properties, force your agents to come up with bad things to say about every property, fire any listing agent who won't tell you hard truths from the first time they open their mouth. Real success in real estate is never easy.

Real estate transaction can be made easy - at the price of giving the other side what may be the best deal since the Dutch bought Manhattan. Real estate, particularly in high cost areas where the largest proportion of the population live, is valuable enough that just a few percent of the purchase price can be more than most people make in a year, and if you're not on your guard, you may never know you've been had. I talked with a guy recently who had no clue that there was an identical property four doors down being offered for $140,000 less than he paid, at the time he paid it (I didn't tell him. Not my client, and done is done. No use stirring up trouble or getting him aggravated over something that could no longer be remedied). Really pay attention to the things people will do to save much smaller amounts of money for a few weeks, and it will remove all doubt in your mind as to whether scams happen. To use another gratuitous example, the vast majority of all the negative amortization loans out there. What percentage of people do you think are going to sign off on, "pay interest two percent higher than you could get, compounding against you in the lender's favor, end up owing more than the property is worth and being unable to refinance, and won't be able to afford the payments in three to five years, thereby ruining your credit for life and losing the property as well," if everything is laid out with full disclosure? But millions of people did, and I'm still getting email most weeks from people who were lied to by their loan officers and agents and only figured it out at signing! Bobby McFerrin wrote a great song, but "Don't worry, be happy!" is not the key to a successful real estate transaction. In fact, it's the direct opposite. If you're not willing to be a diligent guardian on your own behalf, I'm willing to bet money that nobody else involved will, either.

Around here, even a "small" transaction puts $300,000 or so onto the table. Ask yourself, "What would I do with $300,000 at stake?" Then ask yourself what the worst scoundrel you know would do with $300,000 at stake. I assure you that the world of real estate has people out there worse than any fictional villain - I've dealt with some of them. The fictional villain has to be believable; the real person only has to exist. Finally, ask yourself what somebody who's almost - but not quite - a saint might be willing to do with $300,000 on the table. The variations should give you a good idea as to the gamut of possibilities, but people are ingenious when it comes to ways to squeeze extra money out of someone else.

Now ask yourself: Do you really want to hire a cheerleader as the expert on your side in light of this? Or do you want a cold-hearted analyst who really understands everything that can go wrong, and is going to tell you the downsides as well as the upsides of everything? It may not be as complex as the game of celestial billiards NASA plays with probes like Voyager, Galileo, and Cassini-Huygens, but a constant between the two is that, like celestial mechanics, real estate transactions have critical moments where if you are just a little bit wrong in what you do, you end up heading in completely the wrong direction, if not splatted into the side of the waypoint at several miles per second. Nor can you usually fix it later if you get it wrong at the critical moment. If you doubt this, spend a little time on any of dozens of real estate forums, reading the stories of the people who got it wrong, and are now trying to fix it.

Buying real estate, or financing it, is a huge decision. So big that the emotional hind brain with all the "flight or flight" stuff over-rides our rational decision-making process, which was layered on in our complex operating system we call a brain much later, and loses out any time there is a conflict between the two. Fear and suspicion are hardwired into the hind brain. If anything about the situation is uncomfortable, the primary reaction of the hind brain is to get out of that situation. In fact, in many cases, the only way some sales folk can move a lot of people off their hunkered down position in mental concrete is by pretending that there is no possible downside to the transaction. Not only is this cheerleading behavior a calculated lie (unless the sales person really is that clueless themselves), but it destroys any element there may be of the healthy response of evaluating the situation completely, from a rational viewpoint. There is no such thing as a real estate transaction without potential downsides, and the ones you don't know about or don't understand are generally much worse than the ones you do.

I don't know how many times I've heard people say things that reduced to "I can't be rational! This is far too important for that!" A good professional's most important job function boils down to keeping intellect in the process. I can't make Mrs. Lee (and women make the decisions when picking out the cave!) decide she emotionally likes the property enough to buy it (Even if I could, I wouldn't - that way lies professional disaster). That's Mrs. Lee's part of the process, and Mr. Lee will help. I can give them enough concrete reasons why or why not to get past that reptilian hind brain's emotional over-ride of the thought process.

I've got to admit that the thought of being able to buy real estate and get loans stress free appeals to me, too. Being a carefree adolescent or child is appealing on a certain emotional level. But it's also profoundly dangerous. One of the wisest and most profound things I've ever read, despite the mixed metaphors, was the following:

"'Let George do it ' is not just the lazy man's motto. It is also the credo of the slave. If you want to be taken care of and not have to worry, that's fine; you can join the rest of the cattle. Cattle are comfortable - that's how you recognize them. Just don't complain when they ship you off to the packing plant. They've bought and paid for the privilege, and YOU SOLD IT TO THEM"

So how about it? Do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be involved and understand everything going on? Do you want to have it all easy, or would you prefer to plan it through? Do you want to work with a cheerleader, or with an analyst? Maybe you've been reading the news these past couple years. Millions of people are in the process of losing their homes, having their credit ruined for years, and having the rest of their lives ruined, financially. Millions more have already been through it. I've yet to hear of one who was the client of an analyst-type agent or loan officer who disclosed everything the client needed to know at the appropriate time.

There's always going to be a leap of faith somewhere in a transaction. Short of learning the jobs of three or four professionals on the same level of knowledge and practice as they possess, there is no way around this. But by going in with your eyes open, doing your own due diligence, and cross checking what you are told, you can make that leap into a short step, and give yourself confidence that your trust is not misplaced by verifying it isn't misplaced where you can check. Because most of the crooks out there are fundamentally lazy, and can not or will not do the work and preparation that will enable their little drama to withstand even small amounts of real scrutiny. Most of those desperate people I read or get email from, trying to recover from being royally taken advantage of, could have been saved by very small amounts of skepticism and research.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

The Loan Shopping Koan

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It's very easy for loan providers to talk about a much better loan when you're shopping than they have any intention of delivering. Then you give them thirty to sixty days after you sign up, and you're put into a situation where the loan isn't what you were promised to get you to sign up with that loan provider, but you have a choice of signing now and getting it over with, or going all the way back to the beginning with a new loan provider. If it was intended as a purchase money loan, you may not even have the time to start all over again. This creates powerful incentives for loan officers to paint their loan as being better than it is, and there's no practical legal downside for them doing so.

It's very much like a zen koan: Consumers want the best possible loan, but the better the promised loan, the more likely it is that it won't actually be delivered. It is very difficult for consumers to tell if what's being promised will actually be delivered. This has only become more of a problem recently with HVCC on the one hand and lenders charging for failed loan locks. Both of these have bad effects which loan officers have no choice but to pass on to consumers in one way or another. I would like to go back to locking every single loan and guaranteeing total cost and rate as soon as I have an application, but doing so would inevitably mean that all of my clients would pay higher costs for the same rates in the end.

Despite Washington's high minded words, the regulatory changes in the loan industry have universally hurt both the consumer and the ethical loan officer, while helping lenders and to a lesser extent, unnecessary bureaucracies like Appraisal Management Companies. Nor do the rules for 2010 Good Faith Estimate make a real difference where they were intended to. They do a few things very right, but loan providers can still lie with malice aforethought to get you to sign up with them, and as long as they give you the notice of what they're really going to deliver seven days before the end of a thirty day (or more) process, they are still golden. If rates have gone up in the meantime, it's quite likely that the rational thing to do is stay with the liars, even though they can change their minds again as long as it's another 7 days to closing. If you think this is a recipe for jerking consumers around, you're right. Loan officers can tell you they've got 5%, then 5.125, then 5 again, then 5.375, all before finally delivering the 5.75% they intended to deliver all along, and similar games with cost apply. Remember, it's always a tradeoff between rate and cost.

What is an informed consumer to do?

Well, if you're an adult about costs, you can ask loan providers to guarantee their total compensation at loan sign up - the Upfront Mortgage Broker Guarantee. I would still prefer to do loan quote guarantees because they put the risk for misquoting squarely on the loan officer. However much I'd like to do them, though, the costs to me and all of my future customers of failing to deliver on Mortgage Loan Rate Locks is just too high to lock the loan before I have a reasonable assurance of the loan actually closing. In some cases this means once I have a full loan package, in others it means I need to wait until I have a loan commitment from the underwriter. Until then, in order to protect my ability to actually deliver low cost loans, I've got to let the rate and cost float. That's what is real, and it's easy for liars to say a loan is locked when it isn't. Loan quote guarantees would take all the uncertainty out of it for the consumer, but I can't do them at sign up any more except in a very few cases.

The "We'll do the loan for $X total compensation" removes a lot of the incentive for loan officers to actually find the best rates as opposed to the loan quote guarantee, which quotes an aggregate figure for costs and rates that includes everything, including what the loan officer makes. It focuses upon the mouse of loan officer compensation, not the elephant of what the loan is actually going to cost you, but it's better than nothing. This is an intentional choice of words - think of the standard cartoon "elephant scared of mouse" schtick and you've captured the ridiculous nature completely. You really should focus on the total bottom line to you, but since we can't lock the loan under current market conditions until we are pretty certain the loan will close, we can't guarantee those terms at sign up, no matter how much we want to. One hopes if you're looking for a mortgage loan you're enough of an adult to realize nobody does loans for free. Nor are loans what most people think of as "cheap". It can be hidden in many ways (yield spread must be disclosed, but SRP and secondary market premium do not), but nobody really does loans for free. No matter which way they hide it or don't, you're still paying for it.

Ask your loan officer the hard questions. Every single one of them. Nail them down as to exactly what they are offering, when they can lock it, what the closing costs will be, and how long it should take. The total closing costs shouldn't change even if the loan is allowed to float rather than locking. If you discover they have lied, well the best thing to do for the long term health of the loan market is to walk away, but most people won't do that.

Things have gotten a lot more difficult for loan consumers wanting to actually get the best possible deal, rather than merely signing up with the loan officer who talks the best game. I would really like to go back to the way I used to be able to do things - Quote a loan I know I can deliver, lock it immediately, get the application done and work it so as to fund within the lock period. Unfortunately, if I tried it my future clients would all be paying higher costs when my closing ratio dipped lower than the lenders require it to be, and therefore they started charging me higher costs for the same rate, costs that my future customers would end up paying because there is no other way any more than there is for any other business. That's a good way to not only hose my future clients, but be forced out of business completely. One more koan to the loan shopping experience - this one from the loan officer side.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here


This is a real, major and pervasive problem in the industry. For a while, it mostly went away as listing agents were desperate for any offer, but it has come back. At least two properties my buyer clients have made offers on in the last few months have sold for substantially less than my clients offered and were both willing and able to pay for the property. Their offers were never acknowledged, nor did we receive a counter-offer. I can tell you this because I have copies of the offer paperwork and have since obtained the final sales price from public records.

This happens for two reasons: The listing agent wants both halves of the commission, and control issues having to do with kickbacks of one sort or another from other sources.

The first is by far the worse. Even if the property sells for ten percent off the price it could have gotten (which may be most or all of your possible equity), the listing agent representing both sides gets paid eighty percent more than if the property sold for the highest possible price to an offer represented by someone else. There are many agencies and brokerages out there that do one thing very well: Getting signatures on listing agreements. Everything else, not so much, but they really are great at getting access to property owners. No matter what city you live in, you've seen the advertising of this type of brokerage. They claim they're great so you should do business with them. However, anyone can claim they are great, especially in non-specific ways.

The goal of all of this is to get you to take the easy way and come to them first, because if they're that successful to afford all that advertising they must be doing a pretty good job for their clients, right? As a result, they can get listing agreements out of property owners who don't understand what's really going on. I hope regular readers know better, because I've gone over why you don't want a "top producer" listing your property before. However, because that signature on the listing agreement gives them control over the property, control over access to the owner of the property, control over what information the owners have access to, and control over who can so much as see the property, there isn't much anyone except the owner can do about it. Indeed, once they sign the listing agreement, there's not much even the owner can do about it.

There are also control issues with kickbacks. Illegal though it may be, many brokerages mandate that all of their transactions go to a certain title company, a certain escrow provider, etcetera, because they somehow make more money (either through kickbacks, common ownership, special services, or reciprocal referrals). However, if the listing agent controls both sides of the transaction, who's going to tell the principals involved that the agent is breaking the law?

Quite often, they even restrict showings of other people's clients, because one of their agenda items is using the property to get buyer clients. Rather than actually working to sell that property (which is what they are obligated to do), they dangle it out there as bait so they can make contact with the foolish sort of buyer who calls the listing agent to see the property and force them into a buyer's agency contract. I was out of town for two days one weekend, and one set of my clients called a listing agent about seeing a property. First, the listing agent told them that "Sure, no problem to see it today!" even though the MLS listing which all other agents see said "48 hour advance notice - by appointment only" There might have been a special circumstance of which the listing agent was aware, but I kind of doubt it because they also wanted my clients to sign an Exclusive Buyer's Agency Agreement in order to see that property. Since I make it a point to educate my clients on this point, they knew to refuse.

Here's the real sticking point: When that agent signed the listing agreement, they accepted a fiduciary responsibility to that seller. It is their responsibility to get it sold for the highest possible price in the quickest time with the fewest problems. It is a violation of that fiduciary duty to their listing client to act as that agent did towards my clients. Their duty is to get that house sold. If someone doesn't see it, they're certainly not going to make a good purchase offer. Anything unnecessary that causes or might cause a buyer to balk about making an offer on that property is a violation of their contractual and legal fiduciary duties. By conditioning prospective buyers seeing the property upon anything other than being there at the first mutually reasonable time, they are in violation of that fiduciary duty to their listing client. However, I must once again ask: If they control all access to that owner, who's going to point this out to the owner?

Here's one person who definitely can't: Any prospective buyer's agent. Both agency law and MLS rules everywhere that I am aware of make it a punishable offense for buyer's agents to contact that owner directly. A buyer's agent could lose their license, MLS access, or both for doing so. It doesn't matter if I "only" lose one - I can't stay in business without both. In other words, the one group of people who have the professional knowledge and interest to possibly inform that property owner that they are being hosed is legally and professionally constrained from doing so. Yes, Virginia, real estate law is structured to protect the major chains and brokerages that advertise constantly (and control the National Association of Realtors and state associations, so they control the vast majority of real estate lobbying).

Nonetheless, if you want to sell your property quickly for the best possible price and without it coming back to bite you, you really do want an agent. The pitfalls and ways that the real estate sharks trap you into their own private feeding frenzy really are enough to make you want an agent even if you couldn't do anything to protect yourself from the bad ones.

So what is a self-interested consumer to do to protect themselves?

Two things: Eliminate the motivation to do this, and eliminate their control over access to you, the property owner.

Both are easy if you know how before you sign the listing contract. Afterwards, they are considerably more difficult if not impossible. Since most consumers don't know enough or don't care enough to do the research beforehand, this is why the vast majority of people who want to sell their property aren't protected. Some listing agents do a very creditable job even though you're not legally protected, but many others don't. Nor is there any real way of gauging their personality for certain ahead of time. It's easy to say the right things before that listing agreement is signed, then go off and do something completely different. Do you want to bet the return on a half million dollar investment on how they will really handle it?

The easy one first: eliminating control of listing agents. There is one exception to the rule about other agents having no permission to contact you: If they are instructed to. Most of the time, you (as the seller) don't want to talk to other agents. But there are two exceptions: If they're having difficulty seeing the property, and if they're making an actual offer. If the listing contract is silent about these two issues, then the listing agent controls these absolutely. Actually, it's their broker, which amounts to the same thing at best, and could be much worse. So if you don't negotiate this in advance, know that you're committing complete control over these two issues to that agent or their brokerage, and there literally is no way for you to find out about any difficulties they don't want you to know about.

What you, as a consumer want, is to get at least duplicates of any offers sent to you directly, and you want to be the one people come to with access issues. You want there to be explicit instructions in MLS to call you directly with any access issues, and to send at least copies of all offers to some facsimile number or email address that you control - not the agent. Put this right into the listing contract. You are entitled to check this on the listing at any time, and you should wander into your listing office at least once during the first week the property is on the market (without telling them you're coming) and demand a copy of your property's full MLS printout - the one that other agents see. You are permitted this on your property and your property only, so be prepared to prove you are who you say you are (Photo ID and copy of listing contract). You should also do this every couple of weeks the property is on the market. Check that the instructions stay what you want them to say in this regard.

Note that even if prospective buyers and their agents don't comply with this instruction, the listing agent has no real way of knowing they didn't. Especially if you wait for that agent to contact you instead of calling them the second you get the fax or email. If they don't contact you within 24 hours, that's everything you need to know about that agent and brokerage. As a buyer's agent, I would be happy to send such duplicates - it means I have some real assurance my client's offer doesn't disappear into the trash can, as I'm pretty certain the ones at the start of the article did. As a listing agent, even if I'm working with the buyers to get me more information (like whether they are qualified) before presenting the offer, I'm going to make sure my seller client knows we've got an offer right away. For me, this happens whether there are instructions to send offer duplicates directly to you or not, but if it didn't, how would you know? I won't get offended by such requests. No good agent who will work for their clients best interests should get offended. It's a legitimate control you are exercising upon the situation, just like any other contractor-contractee relationship. The old maxim about "trust but verify" applies. The agents who get offended or don't want to do this are the ones you should avoid at all costs.

Eliminating the monetary motivation for agents to filter out offers submitted by other agents is harder, but even more important. You as the seller do not want your agent also representing the buyer. Whose side would they really be on? In most cases, all but the worst crooks will be on the side of the seller, but there isn't any way to be certain you aren't one of the exceptions. There are tricks and things that one agent can do that you really can't guard against in general, but it is much less likely that two agents each representing different parties will collude upon. Anything shady, no matter what that might be, and at least one of them can be held legally responsible in a court of law! Nobody wants to be representing the mark in a con when the mark can come after them with an attack lawyer and expect to win a major damage award plus court costs and in many cases jail time.

The way to do this is actually pretty simple: Write it into the listing contract that you will not accept Dual Agency. Period. You don't really care if the buyer is represented or not - if they choose not to be, that's their problem - but you won't permit your agent to represent them. That agent needs to pick a side of the transaction - yours - and stay on it, or they're not getting the listing. If they show the property to some prospective buyer or some buyer wants them to submit an offer, there is a standard form - the Non-Agency Agreement, that explicitly states that both the buyer and that agent agree that there is no agency relationship being created, and the agent is doing whatever they are doing because their contractual relationship with you, the owner of the property, requires that they do it. Tell that agent you won't even consider offers made without another agent until they show you the Non-Agency Agreement. If they can't give you their absolute and sole loyalty for the sale, do you really want them to have the listing?

Furthermore, write it into the listing agreement that if there isn't another agent involved, your agent won't get to keep the buyer's agency share of the commission. A small amount of additional compensation is in order - there really is extra work and extra costs involved, so I ask for an extra half a percent if the buyer is unrepresented, which might just about pay for the extra my transaction coordinator charges plus the gas for meeting the appraiser, inspector, etcetera. You don't want your agent shooing away unrepresented fools offers, either, as they might do if they had to do extra work for no extra pay. You want to put the listing agent's financial motivation squarely where it belongs - they get paid the most money by getting you the highest price on the quickest sale with the fewest problems, not by getting both halves of the commission and the maximum in referral kickbacks.

I'm not real hot on Designated Agency, either, where two different agents working for the same brokerage are buyers and seller's agent. It can work, but the controls necessary to safeguard consumers on both sides are both complex and opaque to that consumer - not to mention that most brokerages don't have them. As a rule of thumb for buyers, if you're working with a good buyer's agent, have been for a while, and it just happens you like a property one of the other agents that works with them is listing, chances are decent that might be okay (about 8 in 10). If you contact the brokerage because they're the ones listing the property, and they refer you to their in-house buyer's agent, chances are 999+ out of 1000 that you should run, not walk, in the other direction. For sellers, it's worse. Unless your listing agent is unavailable for some reason, or that other agent from the brokerage can show a pre-existing buyer's representation agreement, I wouldn't want that offer. There are too many games that can be played, and it makes collusion to someone's detriment much more likely, as these agents work together constantly and might well have the level of mutual trust and teamwork (and possibly direction from the broker) to make a scam work and get away with it. In the majority of cases, this collusion more likely favors the seller than the buyer, but there just isn't a good way for anyone to be certain. As always, if there's a game being played and you can't prove who the mark is, you should assume it's you. Real estate attracts a lot of sharks because of the potential for high profits, and even the cheapest properties have enough profit potential to attract those sharks and all of the con games they play.

The difficult part about this is that the vast majority of agents, even those who aren't necessarily among the worst, will strenuously object to these provisions. Most agents really want to "double end" their deals - represent both the buyer and seller - simply because they do get paid more. Most have never taken the time to understand all of the ethical and legal issues with "double ending" a transaction. But these provisions against getting both halves of the commission really are necessary to remove the motivation that causes bad agents to throw up barriers to offers not represented by them. You don't want them to even be tempted to filter out offers, restrict or refuse showings, or require that prospective buyers do business with their business associates, all of which are bad for you, but result in that agent eventually receiving more money either directly or indirectly.

One more thing is beneficial: Require a notation in MLS that says you welcome
buyer's agents presenting offers in person. Your agent should also want to present counter-offers in person. This not only gives you another opportunity for outside contact uncontrolled by your listing agent, it humanizes that transaction. It turns a faceless fax machine spewing paper into real live human beings. You'd be amazed how much it helps the probability of the transaction actually closing.

The issue of listing agents acting for their own benefit to the detriment of the clients is real, is common, and is once more increasing in magnitude. If you're a property owner who wants to sell on the best terms possible, you need to protect yourself from the problem before you sign that listing contract.

Caveat Emptor

Original article here

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