This story, about a California couple’s lawsuit against their buyer’s agent, appeared in The New York Times this week. In 2005, the couple, Marty and Vernon Ummel, moved from the Bay Area to Carlsbad to be closer to their children, employing the services of a buyer’s agent in purchasing a $1.2 million home.
Mrs. Ummel now claims that the buyer’s agent, Mike Little, a veteran with ReMax, failed to inform them that other homes in the same development were selling at the same time for substantially less.
Mr. Little, who refers to Mrs. Ummel as “a nut job” in the article, plans to argue that the Ummels’ situation is due to their own lack of due diligence.
The story was The Times’ most e-mailed the day it appeared, and it has generated considerable comment, including this post on the Redfin corporate blog. Mrs. Ummels isn’t the most sympathetic character in the world: She’s someone whose bad side you wouldn’t want to be on. Also, people who buy $1.2 million homes aren’t exactly hurting for money.
But I find it interesting that this agent has divorced himself from all responsibility for the Ummels’ overpayment for the house. What did the Ummels pay him $30,000 to do? Unlock lock boxes? When people hire real estate agents, they expect them to look out for their interests. Agents have immediate access to information that normal people don’t know how to get to or don’t have time to find out, such as how much the house up the street just sold for. In this case, the Ummels claim that such information was concealed from them.
Whatever its outcome, this case will be interesting. It might open the door for similar suits if the Ummels prevail, or result in some new rules.
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