Friday, July 10, 2009

Averting Disaster

Six years ago when my husband and I moved to Tucson we purchased a new construction home. The on-site realtor was a relatively new realtor, but good. He was personable, professional, and got things done. We felt like we were in very good hands. Not only that, but he was a nice guy. He helped us move in and subsequently came over to our house for drinks on many occasions when he was still located in our subdivision trying to sell off the rest of the lots. A year after we bought from him he left the company to start his own real estate firm. He was very successful and sold a lot of real estate. In 2007, we put our house up for sale; the same home he sold us. We used him as our realtor.

Right off the bat, things were a little strange. He seemed to avoid us, always sending over another realtor who worked for him. He, himself, had limited involvement in our transactions. As our house was on the market we began looking for other houses with plans to use this firm to also purchase a new house. My husband had recently changed jobs and we expressed concern to this realtor that we may not qualify since most banks want proof of income for two years at the same job. Her response was, "Oh, don't worry Andrew has a great relationship with a mortgage company we use all the time and he won't have any problem getting you qualified." We got a similar response when we expressed concern about coming up with a hefty down payment.

After a few months with little interest in our fact our house was barely shown... we called Andrew who again sent over the other realtor we had been primarily dealing with. She suggested that we consider renting out our home with a purchase option attached (rent-to-own). She said Andrew's friend owned such a company to "manage" the rental agreement and transactions. My husband and I had very little interest in renting out our home so this discussion did not go very far. However, Andrew did call my husband after to discuss this possible rent option in more detail. My husband was a realtor for 2 years and just had a funny feeling about the arrangement and also a couple of other "suggestions" this particular firm offered. They seemed too good to be true and we were both a little skeptical. However, homes were selling, loans were getting funded and so we just really weren't sure. We never really suspected he was being dishonest or unethical, we just felt like some of his suggestions were a little risky and depended on a host of variables that could change at any time. After six months of basically feeling like we were being blown off, though, we changed realtors. Our new realtor made a bit of a prophetic statement by saying something to the effect that our previous realtor (Andrew) was involved in some "shady dealings."

Three days ago I was looking at a house that is for sale and it is listed by the female agent in Andrew's office who we had previously primarily dealt with. She was now working for a different company. I thought that was a little odd since she seemed to really enjoy working with him. When I got home I tried to find Andrew, only to discover that he was no longer licensed nor were any of the other agents in his office (outside of this one particular woman we had dealt with). My husband and I were discussing how odd this was since he was a good agent and thought maybe he too had been hit hard by the housing market tanking and that maybe he just got out of the business.

Last night, this announcement was made. I was shocked. The indictment alleges that Andrew in conjunction with his rent to own property management buddy set out to defraud hundreds of home buyers and investors to the tune of 2 to 10 million dollars. The lawsuit also alleges that the particular mortgage company we were instructed to use was involved by getting people funded who shouldn't have qualified using fraudulent means. You can read the actual complaint that was filed in court as it outlines the scheme and how each person connects to the other, allegedly. (I wish more the reporters here in town....would actually read the complaint because half of what is circulating about what they are accused of isn't even a part of the actual lawsuit).

I won't get into the merits of the case, because I really have no idea. I am not a lawyer. All I have is my personal experience with the accused ring-leader of this scheme. I am, however, a firm believer in the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. While the evidence against my former realtor and his rent to own buddy seems pretty damning they still deserve their day in court. There also may be some involved who are collateral damage as a result of ignorance, incompetence, turning a blind eye, or simply association and the company one keeps. Who knows. If these allegations are true and the level of involvement each party had can be proven then they should be penalized to the full extent of the law, but I do wish more people would reserve judgment until more is known.

That being said, I cannot tell you the relief my husband and I felt last night. When we were trying to sell our home with them we prayed every day that the house would sell so that we could then buy a new one. It was frustrating when things didn't work out as planned. When I think now about the huge mess we could be embroiled in, simply in terms of being in a home we may not have been able to afford, or given shady loan terms or any other variety of possibilities relief doesn't even begin to describe it. So much seems to make sense now. I wonder if he was distant and didn't try very hard to sell our house because we were friendly and he didn't want to screw us but he also couldn't tell us he couldn't represent us without seeming suspicious. Or I wonder if the opportunity presented itself would he have screwed us too? (Ironically, the one realtor from his firm who we dealt with is the only one who has been able to keep her license and is not named in the was she ignorant to the entire operation or was there just not sufficient evidence to include her? Who knows?)

The part that is lost on so many in our community right now (who would like to line these men up and stone them) is that many of the accused have families: wives, children, parents. Andrew has a child close in age to my kids. Many of the others also have young children. If these men are guilty I really don't feel badly for them, however regardless of their guilt or innocence I do feel badly for their families and all the families they allegedly screwed out of homes and money. Children really do pay for the sins of their fathers (and in many cases mothers too).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how much of the allegations can actually be proven. While I like to believe that our legal system works and that they get it right all of the time, we all know full well that mistakes are made, innocent people go to prison, and over eager prosecutors sometimes make examples out of the wrong people.


Joanne said...

Wow, thankfully you skated through that situation unscathed. What a potential mess there could've been. What is it they say? Everything happens for a reason? I guess there were good reasons your house didn't sell with Andrew. Phew!!

Moxymama said...

Definitely dodged a bullet...when I think about the financial mess we could be in right now as a result it about sends me over the edge. Grateful is definitely an understatement.

Moxymama said...

Also, one point I should have made pertaining to the allegations is that these charges are a civil complaint. I do wonder if these violations were so egregious why the AG isn't going after them criminally.

Nancy said...

Wow! I've always been suspicious of realtors and lawyers - had bad experiences with both!
Keep us posted on what happens.