Protect property disclosures from theft

Home Sale Hindsight

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 7, 2011

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Home Sale Hindsight

Tara-Nicholle Nelson
Inman News™

Q: My daughter is trying to sell her home in Cleveland, Ohio. She was out of town last week and her roommate was in the home when the Realtor called and asked if he could show the home. While in the home the Realtor asked if he could take the home floor plans with him (eight pages of architectural drawings of the home add-on and remodel that was done 10 years ago).

The roommate said she didn't think he should take them but the Realtor took them anyway. He did return the prints, but my question is: Is the Realtor allowed to do this? --Cathie

A: Well, the question whether someone is "allowed" to do it is a difficult and technical one. The fact is, he was physically capable of doing it and no one stopped him from doing it, and he did return them, so it's not really theft.

Additionally, there are many who would say that he wouldn't have bothered taking them, in any event, but especially over the objection of the roommate, if his clients weren't seriously interested in the property. In that context, many a seller would say, "Go for it, take 'em, enjoy, just bring them back" (with the offer). And in the end, it was a no-harm, no-foul situation.

This creates a great opportunity to answer the question I'm sure many readers will have: Why would your daughter's agent leave the plans in the property in the first place?

First, many savvy listing agents leave binders containing disclosures, architectural plans (as in your daughter's case) or other documentation that might be of interest to prospective buyers in the property for them to view while there.

Protocol in some areas is to leave disclosure packets out that can be taken away; elsewhere, the standard practice is for the agent to have only a single copy of these items in the home and for serious buyers who would like to peruse them at their own convenience to have their broker or agent call or e-mail the listing agent for a package of their own.

In still other situations, agents have gotten tech-savvy; they might leave a disclosure package in the property with instructions for how interested buyers' brokers can download their own virtual disclosure package online.

The advantages of leaving these documents on-site are many and vary by situation. If the property has flaws or needs extensive repairs that the seller does not plan to remedy before selling (i.e., desires an as-is sale), allowing buyers to review inspection reports and repair bids while (fingers crossed!) falling in love with the property's potential and/or other selling points can make for a more reality-based offer that is less likely to fall out of escrow later on.

It can also lessen the chances that buyers forget the allure of the place between the time they see it and the time they realize the extent of the property's defects.

If the property has had major upgrades or additions, like your daughter's home, offering up the plans, permits or other details about the work that was done can add to the compelling value buyers perceive the home to present.

But, here's the rub. With most of the disclosure packet documents, copies can be readily made. When it comes to architectural plans and drawings, these items are often on oversized paper or otherwise difficult to copy. My advice is to do it anyway.

Anyone who shows their home should be aware that there is a security gap inherent in allowing strangers into your home. Plans and permits are extremely difficult to replace. I would suggest making a copy and leaving that copy at the property, marked "DO NOT REMOVE FROM PROPERTY," just to make the point.

Until you can make a copy, I would not leave the original in the home to avoid precisely the situation you encountered.

In terms of seeking recourse against this agent, I wouldn't even bother trying. Was her behavior in absconding with the plans bad form? Absolutely. Best practice would have been to leave the plans and simply request a copy or the desired information from the listing agent after the showing.

However, if she was not unequivocally forbidden from taking them, you really have no substantive complaint to lodge with her broker or the local board of Realtors. If I were your daughter, I would focus on eliminating this issue going forward.

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