Lawsuit Regarding Off-Market Sale

As reported by Inman News, a new lawsuit has been filed regarding an off-market home sale.  Summary: An elderly homeowner is suing a real estate brokerage company, claiming her agent convinced her to sell her home as a pocket listing which cost her at least $275,000 in lost income.  The complaint alleges that the agent told the homeowner that the property was in disrepair and her best bet would be to sell to a real estate investor. The suit alleges that the agent pressured her to sell to someone the agent knew without any competing bids or listing on the MLS.  The lawsuit states that the agent told the seller he could get her a better offer keeping it off the MLS, even though the seller thought she would receive more with multiple offers if it was listed. The agent claims he knew that the seller was desperate for a quick sale because of the high cost to carry the home and was working in her best interests. The investor resold the home within a few months at a much higher price.  While this is the most basic summary of a complicated case, we will learn more as it winds it’s way through the court system.  With allegations of financial elder abuse and breach of fiduciary duty, all agents and brokers should take stock of their own policy handling off-market listings. 

If you’ve ever taken an office exclusive listing, how are you being CLEAR and TRANSPARENT about the options, and ensuring any decision to limit exposure of a home is a choice made 100% by the seller and not influenced by an agent? And how are you documenting that the seller is fully aware that the lack of market exposure and competitive bids could have financial implications?  Reexamine how this is handled in your office to make sure you are working always in the seller’s best interest and at their informed instruction.