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Agent Gets Sued by Buyer After Home Loses Value

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I am not a Real Estate Agent and I certainly don’t play one on T.V. But this piece of news coming out of California caught my attention:

CARLSBAD, Calif. — Marty Ummel believes she paid too much for her house. So do millions of other people who bought at the peak of the housing boom.

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

Ummel claims that the agent hid the information that similar homes in the neighborhood were selling for less because he feared she would back out and he would lose his $30,000 commission.

Real estate lawyers and brokers say the case, which goes to trial in North County Superior Court on Monday, is likely to be the first of many in which regretful or resentful buyers seek redress from the agents who found them a home and arranged its purchase

Read the full story and tell me what you think. If this couple wins this lawsuit it could be the RE communities worst nightmare? I hope agents didn’t spend all the money they made in the boom, because things could get nasty.

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Robert D. Ashby

    January 22, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Ah, what the desperate will do. I guess lawyers don’t have to chase ambulances anymore.

  2. Colorado Mortgage Lender

    January 22, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    I think the burden of proof would be very high, so I doubt anything will come of the suit. However, there is more to this than just the outcome of this lawsuit. People are going to start to realize that professional appraisals are something to value even if you aren’t required to get one. We will likely see more purchase agreements contingent upon a satisfactory appraisal paid for and requested by the buyer.

  3. Bob in San Diego

    January 22, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    The agent blew it.

  4. Brian Brady

    January 22, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    …but the LENDER made the loan…it MUST have been worth it.

  5. ines

    January 22, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    We never have all the facts and I know many agents that should be sued – we owe it to the customer to disclose everything about the market and its trends.

  6. Bob in San Diego

    January 22, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Brian, as you probably know, the agent was the lender. When the buyer finally got her hands on the appraisal, she saw the comps and the next question was “how did this loan get approved?”. I’m betting at least one loan fraud investigator will be sitting in the courtroom next week.

  7. Athol Kay

    January 22, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    “That makes this the first housing collapse in which large numbers of buyers had a real estate professional explicitly looking after their interests.”

    That is the kicker thought from that article. Gonna be a very interesting lawsuit to follow.

  8. Benn Rosales

    January 22, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    be sure to go over to redfin and reads Glenn’s spin on it.

  9. Mack in Atlanta

    January 23, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Rather than entering suit against the agent, she should probably be entering suit against the appraiser. Of course the agent and brokerage will have deeper pockets than the appraiser.

    This now opens the even larger question of how many consumers are going to be entering suits against Zillow for the inaccurate information they provide on a daily basis?

  10. Bob in San Diego

    January 23, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Mack, if the agent/lender had given her the appraisal when she asked for it, she would have seen two comps 5% and 10% less and backed out. She had a right to the information and was denied.

  11. Mack in Atlanta

    January 24, 2008 at 5:52 am

    Bob, I didn’t see in the article that she had requested a copy of the appraisal but was denied. I agree with you that she should have been given a copy of the appraisal when she requested it.

    As a REALTOR and a Loan Officer I make it a practice to get a copy of the appraisal to my clients as soon as it completed. We then review it to make certain there are no questions.

    By withholding information from the buyer the agent in question deserves to be spanked.

  12. The Loan Arranger

    March 21, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I don’t think realtors should be loan officers and I believe holdheartedly that loan officers tend to make poor realtors. Micheal Douglass’ character in “WallStreet” said, Greed is good. But at what cost? Walmart’s greed destroys entire neighborhoods before, during, and after their tenure in their choosen “hood”. But we all shop there. Yesterday, I went to the movies, and their were over 20 movies playing in one theater, all operated by teenagers, what are we teaching them?. The manager, whom appeared older, stated he was in college working on a business management degree. My point is this, this destruction of sorts, is not sneaking up on us. It’s right out front….yet we do nothing and bitch when things don’t go our way. The buyer here knew their loan and the purchase of the property was being handled by the same person. Short of full disclosure, the buyer still pursued the transaction. Would the buyer’s reaction have been the same if the property soared in value but not to their expectation…..Both the buyer and the agent/lender got greedy….They both violated the Gambler’s Creed…You got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em but most importantly, you got to know when to walk away and know when to run. I think the agent/lender should be force to give his commission to gambler’s annombus and buyer should be giving the Kenney Roger’s “Gambler’s Creed” DVD.

  13. Mack in Atlanta

    April 16, 2008 at 11:04 am

    I just read an article that said the agent was found “Not Guilty”. https://www.nctimes.com/articles/2008/04/11/business/589b9e7009198e1c88257427006b6fd3.txt

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

How to build a company culture while working remotely

(OPINION EDITORIAL) It seems that even a post COVID-19 world will involve remote work, so how can you build and maintain a strong work culture that ensures growth and satisfaction?

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culture remotely

New startups and existing companies are starting to transition to a fully remote (or nearly fully remote) model, but what does this mean for work culture? If you’re not careful, your work culture could easily become diminished as you transition to a remote environment, and if you’re building a company from the ground up, you may not have a strong culture to begin with.

Culture isn’t something you can afford to give up, so how can you build and maintain your company culture while working remotely?

The importance of a strong work culture

Maintaining a strong, consistent company culture is vital, even if your company is operating remotely. With a strong work culture, you’ll enjoy benefits like:

  • Better recruiting potential. A company with strong work culture will seem more attractive to talented candidates. The best people in the industry will want to work at a place with a great team and a great set of values.
  • Like-minded teammates. Establishing a consistent work culture allows you to selectively hire, then maintain employees who are like-minded. Employees with similar goals and mentalities, even if they come from different backgrounds, will be able to collaborate more efficiently.
  • Smoother communication. A strong foundational work culture that establishes goals, values, and beliefs within an organization can enable smoother, more efficient communication. Staff members will be on the same page with regard to high-level priorities, and will be able to exchange information in similar patterns.
  • Lower stress and less turnover. Better work cultures generally mean lower stress for employees, and accordingly, less employee turnover. Of course, this assumes you’re hiring good fits for the organization in the first place.
  • A better public reputation. Your work culture can also boost your public reputation—especially if you emphasize core values that are important to your target audience.

How to build company culture remotely

Traditionally, you can use in-person team-building sessions, regular meetings, and workplace rules to establish and maintain your company culture, but while working remotely, you’ll need to employ a different set of tactics, like:

  • Hiring the right candidates. Building a great culture starts with hiring. You have to find candidates who fit with your organization, and already share your core values. If someone doesn’t agree with your high-level approach, or if they don’t like your rules or workflows, they aren’t going to do their best work. These same considerations should be applied to your third party hires as well; agencies and freelancers should also fit into your values.
  • Hosting virtual team-building events. You can’t host in-person team-building events, but that doesn’t mean that team-building is inaccessible to you. Consider hosting a video conference to introduce your team members to each other, or bond over a shared event. You could also host virtual game nights, or provide team lunches to celebrate wins. Any excuse to engage with each other in a non-work context can help employees feel more connected and part of the team, and there are plenty of options to make it work virtually.
  • Streamlining communication. Good communication is both a constituent factor and a byproduct of effective company culture. If you want your culture to thrive, you have to set good standards for communication, and encourage your employees to communicate with each other consistently and openly. People need to feel heard when they speak, and feel comfortable voicing their opinions—even if they don’t agree with their superiors. There should also be easily accessible channels for communication at all levels. Over time, this foundation will help your employee communication improve.
  • Improving transparency. Workplace transparency is important for any employer, but it’s especially important for remote businesses trying to build or maintain a strong culture—and it’s challenging if you’re operating remotely. If you’re open and honest about your goals and how you operate, employees will feel more trusted and more engaged with their work. Strive to answer questions honestly and disclose your motivations.
  • Publishing and reiterating company core values. One of the biggest factors responsible for making a company culture unique is its set of core values. Spend some time developing and refining your list of core values. Once finished, publish them for all employees to read, and make time to reiterate them regularly so employees remember them.
  • Making employees feel valued. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make your employees feel valued. Take the time to show your appreciation however you can, whether it’s through a simple thank-you message or an occasional cash bonus, and be sure to listen to employee feedback when you get it.

Building a work culture in a remote environment is more challenging, and requires consideration of more variables, but it’s certainly possible with the right mentality. Spend time setting your priorities, and make sure you’re consistent in your execution.

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