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REAL ESTATE Q&A

Agent Obligated to Present Offer Promptly

December 27, 1998|ROBERT J. BRUSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

QUESTION: What recourse do we, as prospective home buyers, have if the listing agent of a home we want to buy refuses to promptly present our offer to the seller?

Our buyer's agent has, for more than a week, tried to present our offer. But the listing agent comes up with excuses why he hasn't contacted the seller to present our offer. We like the house and believe we have made a fair purchase offer along with our good-faith deposit. We suspect that the listing agent is waiting to see if other offers will materialize. What steps or legal action should we take?

ANSWER: If the home is listed in the local multiple listing service (MLS), and both agents are members, the listing agent must cooperate with your buyer's agent. However, if one agent is not an MLS member, there is no duty to cooperate.

Presuming both agents are MLS members, and that the listing agent was not instructed by the seller to delay presenting all offers (which is very unlikely), the listing agent has breached his fiduciary duty to the seller.

Delay in presenting your offer can seriously harm the seller, especially if you withdraw your offer and buy another house.

Your buyer's agent should become more aggressive. Unless the seller is ill or out of town without a telephone, the listing agent has no valid excuse for not promptly presenting your offer to the seller.

Since the listing agent obviously doesn't want to cooperate, your agent should contact the listing agent's broker or office manager, and insist your purchase offer be presented promptly. If your agent still isn't allowed to present the offer, he should contact the seller directly, politely explain the situation and ask to present your offer.

After the transaction is completed, whether or not you buy the house, you should report the listing agent to the state real estate commission. Breach of fiduciary duty is a serious violation, for which an agent can lose his real estate sales license.

Reverse Mortgage Not Available Until Age 62

Q: I am interested in those reverse mortgages for senior citizens you often discuss. I'm 61, a recent widow, with a mortgage of about $21,000 on my house, which is worth at least $250,000. Since I can't get Social Security until I'm 62, I'm barely getting by on the earnings from my part-time job. Can I get a reverse mortgage to pay for a new roof and get a modest monthly payment?

A: Not yet. Reverse mortgage eligibility begins at age 62. After you become 62, you can probably obtain a reverse mortgage with a lump sum to pay off the small existing mortgage and a new roof. In addition, you can arrange to receive monthly payments based on your life expectancy and the home's market value.

Three types of reverse mortgage payments are available to eligible homeowners: lump sum, monthly payment and credit line. You can receive one or a combination of these types of payments. Many senior homeowners select just the credit line so they have funds available for emergencies.

Part Owner Can Sue to Force Others to Sell

Q: I own a one-third share of a property, which I want to sell. I have asked the two other owners if they are interested in buying my share. If they don't buy me out, what are my options?

A: Presuming you hold a one-third interest in the property as a tenant in common, you are free to sell your share to whomever wants to buy from you. However, there isn't much demand for one-third of a property. If your co-owners elect not to buy you out, you could bring a partition lawsuit to force a sale. The judge decides if the property should be sold and the proceeds divided among the owners.

The new Robert Bruss report "How to Make Your Home Sell Fast for Top Dollar" is available for $4 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010. Credit card orders are welcome at (800) 736-1736 and by fax at (650) 348-6916.

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