Saturday, May 05, 2007

Unarmed Robbery - Broker Style

I witnessed a bold unarmed robbery attempt last week. I was representing the buyer in the purchase of a condo. On the HUD-1 settlement statement that was sent to me before the closing, I noticed that the listing broker had added a $395.00 "regulatory compliance fee" for the seller to pay. This was in addition to the commission the seller was paying to the broker to sell his condo. What is a regulatory compliance fee, you ask? It's the real estate equivalent of gratuity added. In other words, a rip off. The dressing-up of this junk fee in official-sounding lingo was designed to make the seller think that it was a required fee, but, it wasn't. It's a tactic used all the time by unscrupulous agents and brokers to line their pockets. It is common with at least one of the big national real estate companies. I know from personal experience that some companies pressure agents to include these fees in all their deals. This particular seller suffered the indignity of having his own broker attempt to con him out of an extra $395.00 above the $23,800 he had agreed to pay the broker to sell his property. In this case, the seller was sharp enough to question the fee and it had miraculously disappeared from the HUD-1 by the actual closing.

When I used to work for one of the big national franchises, some of the agents in the company tacked these junk fees on all their deals, usually calling it a "transaction fee". It was encouraged but not required by the broker. Just like in this most recent example, if the client objected, they would drop it, but, if nothing was said, yahoo, free money. I never participated in this practice because it didn't pass the smell test then and still doesn't. Adding the word "regulatory" to this rip-off fee just intensifies the foul odor.

Be careful what you agree to pay. In most cases, the commission you agree to pay to the listing broker should be all that you are obligated to pay them. If you notice some additional fee to the listing broker on your settlement statement refuse to pay it unless they can justify it. You may want to read a couple of my earlier posts on agent shenanigans

I'll leave you with a couple of shots of last Sunday's farmers' market in Cocoa Beach. The tomatoes tasted even better than they looked.

We woke up this morning to a massive north swell that arrived last night from the extra-tropical low off the coast. Our 120 mile buoy was reading the swell at 25 feet with a 16 second period this morning and conditions are big and challenging. Looks like a few days of epic surf for the local crew who are up for the paddle.