Home buyer’s privacy

Buyer InformationIn a time when there is increasing concerned about personal privacy, maybe it’s time for local Realtor® associations (such as the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors®) to retire the Buyer’s Financial Information Sheet, or at least make major revisions to the form. The Buyer’s Financial Information Sheet is an invitation for abuse and misuse by those who may otherwise be well intentioned.

Sure, privacy laws have been recently enacted that prescribe protocols on the handling and disposal of sensitive personal information. However, there are no provisions to ensure that real estate brokers, agents, and those who have access to the personal data follow such precautions.

If you ask a real estate broker about the origination of the Buyer’s Financial Information Sheet, they might explain how agents needed a means to pre-qualify buyers in a time when loan officers’ pre-qualification letters had little meaning on their own. The tradition of a completed form portrays the buyer’s ability to purchase a home. Legal minds might go further to explain that the form may provide additional recourse for the home seller in case the buyer provides misleading and/or false information, and/or omits relevant information about their financial standing.

Today, many home buyers are pushing back (and rightly so) at the request to provide an abundance of specific financial and personal information to their agents, listing agents and sellers. For many home buyers, the resistance to sharing personal and financial information is not only because of discretion, but mainly because they feel the sharing of the information is redundant and ineffectual. Many home buyers have already provided similar (if not more) information to their loan officer so as to be issued a pre-qualification letter. Additional concerns include the use of buyer financial information to during contract negotiations.

Times change, and it’s time to take home buyer financial information out of the hands of real estate agents. The argument that sellers want to see the buyer’s ability to purchase is antiquated. Today, mortgage originators are licensed and take seriously approvals that are issued because consumers may have recourse; the loan officer usually performs a minimal level of due diligence.

Mortgage originators are required to undergo a federal and state criminal background checks for licensing. Additionally, lenders offer training on managing and disposing sensitive personal information; many lenders offer secure means of electronic transmission of sensitive data. Chances are that the agents involved in your transaction did not undergo a recent background check, much less the seller. But if you are asked to complete said form, you are expected to trust those who may handle and view it.

Additional problems that can occur when presented with the Buyer’s Financial Information Sheet include the compulsion by listing agents and home sellers to underwrite the buyer’s mortgage; they may indulge in deciding whether or not the buyer is mortgage worthy when they may be unqualified to do so. Additionally, listing agents and sellers are tempted to use the buyer’s financial information in negotiations; misguided sellers may regrettably lose a deal when they are told to hold out for a higher price from a buyer who may walk away from negotiation.

Protect home buyers and sellers: retire or change the Buyer’s Financial Information Sheet. Cash buyers can still provide proof of funds to purchase, while other buyers can provide a lender’s letter along with a “Buyer’s Financial Affidavit” that certifies that all information provided to their lender is accurate.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2013/08/21/home-buyers-privacy-an-argument-to-retire-the-financial-information-sheet/

By Dan Krell
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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright ©2013 Dan Krell.