There’s always something to howl about

Nice going, unnamed Idaho agent

“Sessions said they trusted their real estate agent, who, she claimed, told them the snake problem was “made up” by the previous owners so that they could leave their mortgage behind. He assured them that every precaution was made to keep the snakes away, she said.

The Sessions’ signed paperwork acknowledging the stories about snakes when they bought the house, based upon the assurances the stories were false, The Associated Press reported.”



28 Comments so far

  1. Joe June 17th, 2011 7:08 am

    I watched the video your article includes John. I would buy the house in a heartbeat if the price was right. Even with “hundreds” of snakes, eventually they could all be trapped with the right bait. I think the home is bargain waiting to be had.

    We had a similar situation with our first home purchase in So Cal. The issue was raccoons. I ended getting really good at trapping them and relocating them to a wildlife preserve. I ended up catching 40-50 of the rascals!

  2. John Rowles June 17th, 2011 7:17 am

    @Joe: Exactly the point – that agent glossed over how bad the issue was to close a deal and cash a check, which is exactly the sort of behavior people expect from real estate agents because of stories like these.

    Disclose, price it right and you can find a buyer for any property who isn’t going to turn around and punch all real estate agents in what is already a very, very black eye when the lie is revealed.

  3. Roxanne Ardary June 17th, 2011 9:53 am

    I wouldn’t be so quick to assume the agent did as they claim. While it is a convenient excuse, since the court dismissed the case it’s quite possible the buyers didn’t follow standard protocol and dismissed home inspections, walk throughs, and advice.

  4. John Rowles June 17th, 2011 11:10 am

    @ Roxanne: Doesn’t matter. Perception = Reality. No one writes stories about real estate agents who do a good job.

    This guy was smart enough to cover his ass and maybe he did tell them what the real situation was, but do you really think that’s what happened?

  5. Roxanne Ardary June 17th, 2011 2:20 pm

    @John: Unfortunately, you are correct. In many cases, right or wrong, perception does equal reality for many people. So the bigger question is why allow the media to dictate perception instead of questioning articles that are blatantly biased?

    What I think is that write up only gave one side of the story and I wouldn’t jump to conclusions after reading it. We all know there are plenty of agents out there who are only after the quick buck, that’s for sure. But without knowing all the facts involved, I wouldn’t assume anything.

    In order for them to sue the agent, their only option was to accuse the agent of misrepresenting the situation. With the limited information that article gave, it could be a case where it was a greedy agent who “happened” to cover his ass, or it could very well be a case where the buyer didn’t want to accept responsibility for their decisions. We won’t know unless all the facts are disclosed, and that article certainly didn’t do that. That author was just looking to make headlines and the buyers had a great story

  6. Jim Klein June 17th, 2011 8:08 pm

    The article refers to the agent as “their agent” and “her agent.” Does anyone know if this was a buyer’s agent? I assume not, but I’m wondering.

  7. Jeff Morris June 20th, 2011 10:27 am

    It’s horrible. Buyers should have a complete report personally to avoid such problems.

  8. Jim Klein June 20th, 2011 1:51 pm

    I’ve checked at several sites. While I’ve come across a few quips about RE agents, I still haven’t discovered whether this was a buyer’s agent or not. To me, the story reads entirely differently depending on that, at least with regard to RE agents. Maybe a good spot for belt manufacturing, though.

  9. Thad June 20th, 2011 3:53 pm

    I just happened to find your blog and so far I have enjoyed reading the blog posts. You are right, this type of behavior is what gives agents a bad name. If you were disclosed what was going on properly and then priced the home right there is no need to gloss over facts or lie.
    In the end this type of business will catch up with you.

  10. Roxanne Ardary June 20th, 2011 6:20 pm

    lol good one Jim 🙂

  11. Roxanne Ardary June 21st, 2011 5:46 am

    @Thad Disclosure isn’t the issue here, it was disclosed and they signed off acknowledging it. Their lawsuit was based on the claim the agent misrepresented the severity of the issue.

    Here’s the video of the snake house from the previous owners, it was in the news before they purchased

  12. Linda June 24th, 2011 10:47 am

    Wow this is horrible, I would never treat my buyers in such a manor!

  13. Paul Caparas June 24th, 2011 12:08 pm

    There are 3 sides to this story. The buyers side, the agents side and the truth. It seems it was disclosed but who knows what was said.

  14. Gabe Sanders June 25th, 2011 12:50 pm

    I truly hope that the report of the agent glossing over this issue is not factual. This is the kind of stuff that puts good honest Realtors in a bad light. There’s absolutely no reason to push buyers into a bad decision. The commission just isn’t worth that much!

  15. Jim Klein June 26th, 2011 8:48 am

    There’s only one side that counts…the truth and what was done.

    That’s why I’d need to know the agent’s role. If a listing agent, then caveat emptor and do your homework. If a buyer’s agent, then he sold something without providing what he sold. IMO it’s all that simple, at least ethically.

    And just to needle Greg, who has indeed persuaded me that dual agency doesn’t belong on this planet in this millennium, I’ll add that this is a rare case where a right and honorable dual agent could bring peace across the land.

  16. Greg Swann June 26th, 2011 9:35 am

    > And just to needle Greg, who has indeed persuaded me that dual agency doesn’t belong on this planet in this millennium, I’ll add that this is a rare case where a right and honorable dual agent could bring peace across the land.

    The buyer’s broker (not the agent) will have done his job if there is a signed letter on file from the buyer indicating that the buyer is aware of and accepts the risk of loss associated with buying a snake-pit. Given the disposition in court, my guess is that this is the case. No one ever says to a reporter, “Of course I knew better! I’m just a whiny malcontent.” In any case, preparing and presenting the letter for the file is usually all it takes to get a buyer to back away from an unforced error.

    FWIW: I’m listing tomorrow for a long-time investor client, and I provided for dual agency in the listing agreement: “Seller’s Consent to Limited Dual Representation is attached hereto. Listing Broker will only represent a Buyer for this property if the Buyer will pay full price with no seller concessions. In that event, sales commission will be reduced by 1% to compensate Seller for any perceived loss of advice or counsel resulting from the Limited Dual Representation.”

    The Consent to Limited Dual Representation form is the one I discuss in this post, a warts-and-all summary of what really goes on in a dual agency. Again, the intent is to put less-savvy buyers on notice that they need to find their own champion. In a circumstance like this, where I am selling for a pro to buyers who are at least semi-pro, dual agency makes perfect sense, particularly since I am defending the seller’s interests from the outset. Obviously, I will disclose all of this to any buyers I consider representing for the property. Very difficult to get anything under contract in Phoenix right now, so I’m pretty sure those buyers will be delighted with the arrangement.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant — even for snakes.

  17. Jim Klein June 26th, 2011 11:24 pm

    > The buyer’s broker (not the agent) will have done his job if there is a signed letter on file from the buyer indicating that the buyer is aware of and accepts the risk of loss associated with buying a snake-pit.

    Are we in agreement that if this was a buyer’s agent, he was no good? That was going to be my question all along to Roxanne if it were a buyer’s agent: “What was he selling and did he provide it?”

    Of course, now I’m learning in the other thread that some agents only sell houses and property. That’s cool; some restaurants only sell food. Here in Michigan, those are usually called “former restaurants.”

  18. Greg Swann June 27th, 2011 7:05 am

    > Are we in agreement that if this was a buyer’s agent, he was no good?

    That would be my gut reaction, but I don’t know, and all we have to go by is a source — the newspaper — that we have good reason to expect in advance is being intentionally tendentious and sensationalistic, this because sob-stories make more amusing “news” stories.

    Typically, I will not sell a home I am afraid to enter. If the structure seems unsound, or if I believe the wiring or plumbing represent a significant safety hazard, I won’t have anything to do with the house, nor with any ordinary buyer who insists on buying that house. The letter for the file is usually good enough to get sane people to lose interest in insane houses, but if a buyer is determined to be insane, he has to find another agent.

    But: Earlier this year I sold a home I would not enter for another long-time investor client. Fire damage, completely boarded up. I never went inside. I wrote addenda with all kinds of disclosures about not going inside without a structural engineer, and, at one point, I had to make an agent sign a letter for the file promising not to go inside without expert advice.

    Here is one of the disclosures:


    Buyer is aware that subject property is not currently in a habitable condition and may present safety hazards to unprepared or unprotected entrants.

    Buyer agrees that neither Buyer nor any other persons will enter the structure except in the company of and on the advice of a structural engineer, a licensed contractor, or, at a minimum, a professional home inspector.

    Buyer further agrees to present this disclosure to any structural engineers, licensed contractors, home inspectors, real estate agents, handymen, other tradesmen or any other persons prior to their entry into the structure.

    Buyer and all other entrants into the structure accept, acknowledge and assume the risk of injury attendant upon entry into, inspection of and repair to the structure and explicitly release, indemnify and hold Seller harmless for any injuries resulting from entry into, inspection of or repairs to the structure.

    Moreover, every significant communication about this house was done by email, so there would be no verbal dog-crap on the paper trail.

    The point? I knew I was selling to professionals only, and I made that very plain in the listing. All of the bidders and the ultimate buyer were building contractors. The houses was a decent fix-n-flip candidate and an even-better tear-down on a nice piece of dirt near downtown Chandler. I disclosed everything, and I made sure prospective buyers knew what kind of pig they were buying in that poke. It was a house no ordinary person should have bought at any price, but it was a smokin’ deal for the buyer, and I could have sold it for the same price to two or three other contractors.

    But let’s assume I had done all my disclosures over the phone. And assume further that I had sold the home to Chandler’s only crybaby contractor. Could he and his attorney have painted me in a bad light in the East Valley Tribune? Easily. And then that would all you would know about the story.

    The Roman law of agency is respondeat superior, “let the master answer.” This is what establishes vicarious liability — the principal is liable for the statements and actions of the agent — but it also establishes that the principal is the boss, always in charge. If you order me to do something I think is possibly a grievous error, at a minimum I’m going to make you sign a letter for the file indicating that you are acting against my strong advice. But if I continue to work for you, I am obliged to do as you direct. If that later blows up in your face, and if your pet reporter doesn’t come to me for my side of the story, and if I did not get you to sign paperwork acknowledging that you acted foolishly contrary to my good advice — then we have this news story, this putative fact pattern, and this discussion.

    I’m not saying the agent was in the right — this I don’t know. But the buyer had a responsibility to his own estate regardless of the advice of the agent. Respondeat superior does not obliterate caveat emptor.

  19. Jim Klein June 27th, 2011 2:22 pm

    Alright, thanks. I’m much too simple-minded for this. I still say that if the agent was a buyer’s agent, then he sold something to the buyer (not the house) and didn’t provide what he sold. I’m not trying to prove he should therefore be legally culpable; I’m just saying that he pretended to sell something (not the house) that he (apparently) didn’t actually deliver. While obviously a lawsuit is never enough to prove actual fraud, in this case I’d say it’s tantamount to it.

    I’d lay dollars to doughnuts that with or without that disclosure you wrote, you wouldn’t be sued. And it’s a virtual certainty that you engaged in no fraud. Why, exactly how many BUYERS have been dissatisfied with your work as their agent?

  20. Roxanne Ardary June 27th, 2011 8:39 pm

    “Are we in agreement that if this was a buyer’s agent, he was no good? That was going to be my question all along to Roxanne if it were a buyer’s agent:”

    No. I’m sorry but I can’t see how you can come to that conclusion without knowing anything about the agent’s perspective and what was documented by them.

    “Of course, now I’m learning in the other thread that some agents only sell houses and property. That’s cool; some restaurants only sell food. Here in Michigan, those are usually called “former restaurants.”

    What thread are you referring to?

  21. Jim Klein June 27th, 2011 10:36 pm

    Early on, Roxanne, if this were a buyer’s agent, I was just going to ask you two questions: 1. What was the agent selling? 2. Did he provide it? Really, I’m still interested if we can ignore everything else and just assume he was a buyer’s agent.

  22. Roxanne Ardary June 28th, 2011 6:13 am

    Jim.. I have very little interest in entertaining a conversation that will inevitably pass judgement on a particular person without knowing the facts.

    That being said, I am interested in the point you would like to make by posing those questions. I would love to hear your perspective on the role of a buyer’s agent. I’m sure we can exchange ideas without condemning an individual we know nothing about 🙂

  23. Jim Klein June 28th, 2011 9:21 am

    Sorry, Roxanne; I guess I’m not being very clear. I have no interest in condemning anyone here, least of all someone I know so little about. I do most of my condemning elsewhere!

    As far as ideas, my only interest in this topic are your answers to the two questions, and I mean specifically YOUR answers to those two specific questions. This is not to argue nor even to make any philosophical points; I’m just seriously interested in what you believe are the answers, and I have been all along. I study stuff like that; it’s my thing.

    So you can either answer them with the understanding that it has nothing to do with the agent directly, or we can let it go.

  24. Roxanne Ardary June 29th, 2011 5:57 am

    Ohh, so you want to pass judgment on me.. lol

    Well Jim, I gave you my answer to your questions repeatedly. You just don’t want to accept them. I’ll repeat it again… There is simply not enough information to make any assumptions on what the agent did or didn’t do. The only thing I know for sure is desperate people do desperate things. That could be the case for either party in that lawsuit depending on the actual facts and what transpired… which we don’t know.

    I could be wrong, but I’m guessing by your comments that you are of the belief that had the agent cultivated the relationship, personally and/or professionally, it wouldn’t have gotten to this point. However, I think we’ve all come across some people that just aren’t worth it. Personality conflicts do not mean the agent didn’t do their job or was bad. If the agent continues working with the person, they will however leave the agent more vulnerable to a lawsuit should things go wrong. Maybe the agent’s biggest mistake was not walking away from a problematic client at the start.

    In conclusion, there are just too many “what ifs” for anyone to make a decision on any aspect of it based on the limited information (or misinformation) provided in that story. If someone thinks they can, they are being intellectually dishonest with themselves.

  25. Jim Klein June 29th, 2011 11:02 am

    Roxanne, your guesses are wrong. It’s alright, because nearly everyone tends to underestimate my simplicity! Only people who know me well, know how extraordinarily honest I am. I wasn’t seeking to pass judgment on the realtor and I wasn’t looking to develop any philosophical principles. You see, I already have those well in hand…ahem, in mind.

    I was seeking that which I don’t already know, which is why I ask questions outside of rhetorical debates. What I didn’t know, and still don’t but remain interested about, are YOUR answers to the questions I asked. I mean specifically you and specifically those questions. If you don’t want to share, that’s fine; it’s really not that big a deal. I’m just interested, that’s all. And really, it’s only the first question I’m wondering about now, since you’ve made it clear you don’t believe you’re in a position to answer the second one.

    I don’t stymie easily, but you’ve got me stymied. I don’t know what else to say.

  26. Roxanne Ardary June 29th, 2011 1:29 pm

    Yeah, I agree. I suck as a lab rat.

    Custom belt buckles?

  27. Jim Klein June 30th, 2011 6:45 am

    “Yeah, I agree. I suck as a lab rat.”

    It really wasn’t like that, Roxanne. Had it been, I’d be thanking you now.

    “Custom belt buckles?”

    Now, that’s the spirit! This is Greg’s math–one is greater than zero.

  28. Greg Swann July 7th, 2011 6:18 am

    More snakes, this time in Colorado:

    The dispute over the snakes has gotten a bit nasty as well. The Beaver family claims the real estate agent who sold them the house failed to mention anything about snakes at the closing after being asked about such a rumor. That salesperson insisted she had no knowledge of snakes from previous owners and pointed out the Beaver family chose not to have a professional home inspection done.

    “We had to file for bankruptcy to get rid of the house – we lost all of our credit, everything.”

    Now the house is for sale as a bank foreclosure. CBS4 obtained the listing brochure which simply says “As Is.” CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger called the new agent who was selling it. He asked the agent if she was aware of any prior history of problems. She said years ago previous owners stated there had been some snakes, but she hasn’t seen any and it has been remedied.