The closing of a real estate transaction with the promise of a commission may remind you of why you got into the business. But in the action of dealmaking, a realtor could forget to verify whether someone, including the realtor, is misrepresenting the property either intentionally or unintentionally.
That is why Canadian law places obligations on realtors to take reasonable steps to ensure that listing details are accurate and to verify the claims of sellers. If you have a solid verification process, you can lower the chance of a deal coming back to haunt you at the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA).
Our real estate group has compiled a few recommendations that will help protect you and your clients from misrepresentation and even fraud.
Representing the Seller
Independently verify all features of the property before advertising on Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Make this a fundamental part of your business process and never deviate from it. “Independently” means that you don’t take the seller’s word for it. Check title, liens, easements, measurement of the lot, age, access to parking, and the rental status of appliances.
Representing the Buyer
Have a lawyer review the agreement of purchase and sale before your client signs an offer or acceptance. Normally a lawyer is hired after the contract is signed. After a binding contract is made, a lawyer is limited in what he or she can do to help your clients. A lawsuit or disciplinary proceeding can wipe out all your commission from a deal and may damage your reputation since proceedings are publicly available.
In addition, a real estate lawyer can ensure that financing is properly in place. In the rush to make a firm deal, the buyer risks a lawsuit if the deal falls through if financing is ultimately not obtained. Pre-approval is not approval.
You work hard to develop deals. Dutifully verifying all representations can ensure more deals close smoothly and stay closed. Use the contract expertise of a Millars lawyer prior to signing the APS and always independently check the accuracy of details in your MLS listings before you upload them.
By Isaac Paonesa, Student-at-Law