Ethical question -- what do you think?

Asked by Buyer, Thu May 29, 2008

agent called us about another house we liked but which was above our budget by $40,000 (total price $650,000.) The house had been on the market for a while. She offered to call the listing agent and ask if the owners would consider a lowball offer. We agreed. She called back the next day and said she had no answer yet but had prepared the paperwork for the sale, just in case they said yes. We assumed that if they did accept we would go to her her office and sign a new contract.
We found out a few days later that she had in fact delivered that second offer the day she called, either forging our signatures or the names of the sellers on the last page of the contract. To this day we don't have a copy of the offer (which was rejected). We fired the agent -- but in an email she claims she went out of her way to help us find a home...
We're new to this country. Experts and home buyers, in your experience, is this current practice? Acceptable? Dishonest? Wrong?

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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Fri May 30, 2008
As the others say, the agent's behavior was totally unacceptable.

And let me venture a little bit out on a limb here. Even assuming your agent had acted as she said she was going to, I really don't agree with that strategy. (Some other agents probably will disagree with me, and that's fine.)

If you wanted to make an offer, just go ahead and make it. First, I wouldn't consider an offer of $610,000 on a $650,000 house "lowball." Or even a somewhat lower offer. That's 94% of the asking price. An agent who wades into the muck and asks the listing agent whether the owners would accept a "lowball" offer when that offer is 94% of the listing price may be setting their clients up for failure. "Lowball" is a very squishy, uncertain term.

Second, sellers react differently when an offer is in front of them. First, price isn't everything. The terms count, too. And the solidness of the offer and the potential buyer make a difference. Those sellers might be better off accepting a solid offer of $600,000 on their house (buyer putting 20% down, a $10,000 earnest money deposit, not contingent on the sale of another property) than a weak offer of $630,000 (buyer trying for 10% down, a $2,000 earnest money deposit, contingent on the sale of another property), Asking a buyer whether they would accept an offer, without the offer actually being in front of them, doesn't count for much, one way or the other.

And there's room for hanky-panky with all these oral back-and-forths. You can easily end up with the seller negotiating against himself....lowering the price several times without an offer ever being made. Or, conversely, raising your offer several times without the seller ever actually receiving an offer.

Customs vary across the country. But, really, an offer has to be in black and white to be properly evaluated.

Hope that helps.
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2 votes
Jed Lane, Agent, Petaluma, CA
Fri May 30, 2008
Obviously no one can sign your name to a contract. That is forgery, plain and simple.
If the first contract was signed by you nothing can be changed above your signature either. This isn'r an ethical question it is a legal question and you should report your suspicion to the manager/broker at this agent office and the state level real estate commissioner.
1 vote
Buyer, Home Buyer,
Thu May 29, 2008
Frank -- all we know is what she told us. We started feeling something fishy, and wrote to her asking her to confirm that the offer was still sitting on her desk, since the owners had not responded yet. She wrote back saying that "to speed things up, in case they accepted" she had given it to the listing agent. That company has a policy of always making offers to the owner in person. So we're guessing that she did present the offer that day.
No, we haven't spoken to the listing agent. What consequences would it have? We'd like to see the offer made on our behalf but if the signatures are forged (as we think they are) we don't want to be responsible for someone losing their job.
0 votes
Frank Diaz, Agent, Honolulu, HI
Thu May 29, 2008
It's not clear whether the "second offer" was signed. She may have delivered it unsigned.
How do you know it was presented and/or rejected? All transactions have to be in writing.

Have you talked to the agent selling the property?
0 votes
Buyer, Home Buyer,
Thu May 29, 2008
Sorry, the first line of my post was deleted. It should read: "Two weeks ago we made an offer on a house and lost the bid. The next day our agent called us about another house we liked.." etc. Thanks for answering even though it was confusing.
0 votes
Jody Siegel, , Monmouth Junction, NJ
Thu May 29, 2008
Dear Home Buyer:
Absolutely illegal! She forged your signature. If you have substantial information about what transpired, I recommend that you contact her broker and possibly the board that she is a member of. This is most definitely not common practice and should be reported to keep agents that act illegally off the streets!
Best of luck to you,
Jody Siegel
0 votes
Myke, Home Buyer, 89449
Thu May 29, 2008
Duck and cover people, the world is about to end.
0 votes
Myke, Home Buyer, 89449
Thu May 29, 2008
Forged your signature?

That's illegal. In any profession, in any capacity - that is outright illegal.
0 votes
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