Q: We had to sell our house because we were getting divorced. Our broker had a buyer for the property the day after she put the house on the market. She strong armed me to agree to the asking price telling me that my husband could make me sign a quit claim deed as my husband sat there in agreement.
I did not know what to do except to sign the agreement. Few weeks later, I realized that she was both the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent and didn’t want to lose the deal.
She wrote emails demanding that I send her the signed documents before closing. She then helped me buy the house I was to live in after the divorce.
When I told her the divorce might not get finalized in time to provide the cash from the settlement to buy the house, she insisted that I spend $20 to express mail the documents to the closing office or I would have to take time off work to drive 90 minutes out of town to the court house where the judge presided.
After we closed, I discovered the air cleaner that was a selling point on the listing was not working. She emailed the agent and threatened that I would get an attorney if the sellers didn’t fix it. I never gave her permission to do that. Now she is advising me to get an attorney or take it to small claims court.
She never offered to use her commission to help me pay for it nor help me pay the $20 for express mail to get divorce decree to close on my house. She always “put the ball in my court” and I feel she did not work for me. Is there anything I can do to me make her help me out from her commission, besides complaining to the state board of Realtors?
A: Frankly, it seems that your agent did assist you and did her job well. She got the home you owned with your former husband sold. She assisted you in getting the sale of that home closed and she helped you buy a new home. She even tried to force the sellers of the home you bought to fix the broker air cleaner.
You stated that you were forced to sign the document for the sale of the home but didn’t claim that the price you got for the home was inadequate. You stated that you would have had to have driven for hours to get documents for the closing and she was able to get them for you for $20. And she tried to get the sellers to fix the broken air cleaner — unfortunately they didn’t.
It’s not your agent’s responsibility to guarantee the condition of the home you purchased. It’s not the agent’s responsibility to pay your expenses or to make repairs to your home out of her money. Did you inspect the home before the closing to make sure the air cleaner was working? If you didn’t inspect the home, you should have. Certainly you would have had much more leverage over the seller knowing before the closing that the air cleaner was broken to have them fix it or give you the money to fix it.
Your agent shouldn’t be giving you legal advice. Did you hire an attorney to assist you through this difficult time in your life? Did you even have a divorce attorney working with you to make sure your rights were protected?
When it comes to your agent, it doesn’t seem that you have much to complain about except for not understanding clearly that she was a dual agent on the sale of your home. (Did she have you sign an agency disclosure agreement? That’s a document that outlines your working relationship with the agent.)
But even without knowing whether she was a dual agent, you didn’t claim that you wouldn’t have sold the house or that the price was too low. She might have been pushy and she might have been demanding, but she got what needed to be done accomplished.
Your expectations about how your real estate agent should have behaved seem quite unreasonable.
May 22, 2008.