New home diligence

new home diligence
New home sales (infographic from nar.realtor)

It’s understandable that new homes are alluring.  After all, newly built homes are modern and efficient.  And there is the idea that new homes require minimal maintenance for the first year of ownership.  But new homes are not flawless.

Last week’s Florida’s Attorney General home builder settlement is the latest reminder that new home buyers need to exercise due diligence.  The multi-million-dollar settlement with PulteGroup, Inc came after a two-year investigation.  A simultaneous complaint alleges that the home builder violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by: failing to disclose to certain home buyers in Florida that the homes were being constructed in violation of applicable building codes; unfairly denying certain homeowners’ repair claims for various reasons: unfairly denying certain Florida homeowners’ repair claims without performing an adequate inspection of the home; and unfairly withholding a customer’s deposit in certain instances.  The details of the settlement can be found in the Florida AG’s December 28th news release (myfloridalegal.com). 

This settlement comes two years after the Florida AG entered into a settlement with KB Home in 2016 for similar alleged complaints. 

Home builder complaints are more common than you think.  In fact, Home builder complaints occur throughout the country alleging violations that may include (but not limited to): code violations, improper warranty denials, and improper handling of deposits. 

Maryland’s Attorney General fined NVR Inc in 2012 because it was alleged that required warranty protections were omitted from their subsidiary new home contracts.  A number of other home builders were fined that year for failing to register with the Consumer Protection Division’s Home Builder Registration Unit.  And in 2016, the Maryland AG filed charges against a Rockville home builder for alleged violations of the Home Builder Registration Act, the Maryland Express and Implied Warranties Act, and the Consumer Protection Act.  And more recently, the Maryland AG filed charges in September against a Baltimore County home builder for allegedly “failing to comply with Maryland’s Home Builder Registration Act, Consumer Protection Act, and the Custom Home Protection Act.”

Unfortunately, many home buyers let their diligence lapse when buying a new home.  New home builder reps are friendly, helpful and often appear to be on your side, so it’s understandable how a home buyer may misconstrue the builder rep’s loyalties.  However, when buying a new home, you should conduct your due diligence.  You should also consider hiring a Realtor and a licensed home inspector to assist you through the new home buying process.

When buying a Maryland new home, you should know that the state regulates home builders.  Before considering a home builder, make sure that the home builder is registered with the Consumer Protection Division’s Home Builder Registration Unit.  Before entering into a contract with the home builder, review and understand the contract.  You may want to consult an attorney to make sure that your Maryland new home contract complies with the state requirements. 

You should also keep in mind that Maryland has established a Home Builder Guaranty Fund that is overseen by the Consumer Protection Division. The fund allows consumers to seek recourse “for losses resulting from an act or omission by a registered builder who constructs a new home for a consumer.”  For additional information about due diligence when buying a new home and obtaining the handbook “Buying a New Home, Consumer Rights and Remedies Under Maryland Law,” contact the Maryland Office of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division (marylandattorneygeneral.gov/Pages/CPD).

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/01/03/new-home-diligence

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Civil asset forfeiture

civil asset forfeiture
Home Buyer Sanpshot (infographic from nar.realtor)

Can your home be seized through civil asset forfeiture? Consider the ongoing and expanded effort to identify cash purchases of residential real estate to catch criminals.

An imminent Supreme Court decision on Timbs v. Indiana could have implications on your home and property. Although the case is about excessive fines brought on by a state, it highlights the issue of due process in civil asset forfeiture. To bring you up to speed, the case is about the seizure of an Indiana resident’s $42,000 Land Rover by the state of Indiana, although his drug related fine was only $10,000. The Land Rover was allegedly purchased from cash obtained from an insurance policy, instead of illicit monies.

Civil asset forfeit is a when the government (federal, state, or local) confiscates your property when you are suspected of a crime. You don’t necessarily have to be charged or convicted of the crime. Civil libertarians criticize governments and law enforcement agencies for abusing civil asset forfeiture for profit. Maryland is one of the many states that have recently passed legislation reforming civil asset forfeiture. However, Congress has yet to pass a civil asset forfeiture reform bill.

In their effort to fight money laundering and mortgage fraud, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (fincen.gov) recently stated that their Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) program has “provided valuable data on the purchase of residential real estate by persons implicated, or allegedly involved, in various illicit enterprises including foreign corruption, organized crime, fraud, narcotics trafficking, and other violations. Reissuing the GTOs will further assist in tracking illicit funds and other criminal or illicit activity…”

Previous GTO’s required title companies to report all-cash transactions that met specific criteria. The purpose was to track and identify individuals who mask their identity behind shell companies. FinCen found that the GTO program provided “valuable data on the purchase of residential real estate by persons implicated, or allegedly involved, in various illicit enterprises including foreign corruption, organized crime, fraud, narcotics trafficking, and other violations.” So much so, that A November 15th press release revealed expanded reporting criteria and metro coverage. FinCen believes that the “reissued GTO” will assist in “tracking illicit activity.”

FinCen’s targets were previously limited to suspected foreign entities purchasing luxury properties. However, FinCen is becoming increasingly aggressive to include more transactions and individuals in their reporting criteria.

Two years ago, I reported on the expansion of the FinCen’s interest in fighting mortgage fraud and money laundering through residential real estate transactions. A January 13th 2016 FinCen release stated their intention in expanding their anti-money-laundering efforts to cash purchases of luxury real estate. The GTO was supposed to help learn about the risk posed by “corrupt foreign officials, or transnational criminals” who were suspected of “secretly” buying of luxury real estate in certain metropolitan areas.

Previous GTO’s focused on the cash purchases of luxury homes (over $1 million) in limited metro areas. However, in their November 15th revision, FinCen lowers the reporting threshold of cash purchases to $300,000. Additionally, the metro areas of interest have been expanded to include certain counties Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas. Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Additionally, title companies in those metro areas are also to report “natural persons” behind shell companies used in all-cash purchases of residential real estate, as well as virtual currency purchases.

Original published at https://dankrell.com

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Buyer and seller attitudes about real estate market

Economists are officially pessimistic about the housing market.  This is the general sentiment following another month of declining home sales.  Experts are pointing to a number of factors for the slowdown, including increased interest rates and housing affordability.  But what are home buyer and seller attitudes about real estate? The National Association of Realtors’ most recent Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey hints at a busy spring!

Economic attitudes about real estate market

attitudes about real estate
Attitudes about real estate market (infographic from nar.realtor)

An October 19th NAR news release (nar.realtor) reported that September’s home sales were the weakest in several years.  The nationwide trend affected all regions.  NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun stated:

This is the lowest existing home sales level since November 2015…A decade’s high mortgage rates are preventing consumers from making quick decisions on home purchases. All the while, affordable home listings remain low, continuing to spur underperforming sales activity across the country.”

First-time-home-buyers are finding the housing market increasingly challenging.  This segment’s participation needs to be strong for a healthy home sales.  September’s low thirty-two percent first-time-home-buyer participation is attributed to rising interest rates and home prices.

But low housing inventory is also an issue.  September’s housing inventory decreased to 1.88 million existing homes available for sale (from the 1.91 available during the previous month).  NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall stated:

“Despite small month over month increases, the share of first-time buyers in the market continues to underwhelm because there are simply not enough listings in their price range.”

Economists at Fannie Mae believe that the housing market will continue to disappoint.  In an October 18th press release (fanniemae.com) Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan stated:

“Our expectations for housing have become more pessimistic. Rising interest rates and declining housing sentiment from both consumers and lenders led us to lower our home sales forecast over the duration of 2018 and through 2019. Meanwhile, affordability, especially for first-time homebuyers, remains atop the list of challenges facing the housing market.”

But what do economists really know about the future?  Let’s hear it directly from the consumer!

Home buyer and seller attitudes about real estate

NAR’s Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey tracks opinions from renters and homeowners about homeownership, economy, and the housing market.  The release of their third quarter 2018 survey indicates that sixty-three percent of respondents strongly or moderately believe that it’s a good time to buy a home.  Although optimism is somewhat diminished from the second quarter’s survey, there continues to be a positive sentiment about buying a home.  The survey’s positive sentiment continues even though a majority of respondents believed that home prices will continue to increase in the immediate six months.  Additionally, a majority of respondents believe that qualifying for a mortgage may be an obstacle to a home purchase.

The survey also concurs with other metrics indicating high consumer sentiment for the economy.  In light of the recent slide in home sales, NAR’s recent Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey reveals a near-record high of sixty percent of households believe that the economy is improving.”  Adding to the strong sentiment is the survey’s increased monthly Personal Financial Outlook Index, which indicates that respondents believe that their financial situation will be better in six months.

The survey also indicates a record high of home sellers who believe it is a good time to sell a home.  But given the seasonal decline of housing inventory, it is likely this will translate to a surge of home listings in the spring.  The added inventory combined with high consumer sentiment will boost the housing market. So sayeth the consumer.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/01/attitudes-real-estate-market/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Real estate services personality

The “one-size-fits-all” service model is becoming an all too familiar experience in every day life.  You encounter it when you go to the doctor’s office.  A day at the mall is certainly a one-size-fits-all adventure.  Now, there is also the pressure towards automated buying and selling systems in the real estate industry.  Real estate services that is one-size-fits-all?  The idea of a one-size-fits-all real estate transaction is becoming trendy from both online companies and local real estate companies.

How do real estate services treat clients?

real estate services
Real Estate Services (infographic from nar.realtor(

The move toward systematizing consumer encounters comes from the corporate goal of profiting from efficiency.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong from a business making money.  After all, making money is the basis of our economy.  And the one-size-fits-all system for home buying and selling is a business solution during a healthy housing market where homes sell quickly.

However, the systematization of the service industry, including real estate, is not welcome by all consumers.  There is some acknowledgement that a systematized real estate transaction can have unfortunate outcomes when the plan is derailed.  Not all real estate transactions are easy, nor do all homes sell quickly.  It is a fact that that most home buyers and sellers still want an expert they can count on to help them navigate one of the most expensive and stressful transactions of their life.

Customer service research

Gauging the effects of a systematized service industry on the consumer is a growing interest.  One recent study examined customer service reactions when the provider system fails (Diaz, Gomez, Martin-Consuegra, Molina; The Effects of Perceived Satisfaction with Service Recovery Efforts: A Study in a Hotel Setting; Ekonomie a Management; 2017, 20:4 p.203-18).  The study suggested that customer issues are inevitable.  They conclude that customer service models should have strategies to address and resolve issues to maintain positive customer relationships.

Another study suggested that when it comes to automated service, some service industries are better suited than others (Scherer & Von Wangenheim;  Man Versus Machine-How the Service Channel Affects Customers’ Responses to Service Encounters; AMA Winter Educators’ Conference Proceedings; 2016, Vol. 27).  The authors suggest that a consumer’s expectation is guided by how a service is provided.  Satisfaction levels are increased when personal services are delivered by a human.  Furthermore, they found that consumers who prefer technology or automated services tend to be ego-centric.  These “self-service” consumers attribute success to their abilities, while shifting blame to externals when there is a failure.

Real estate services for all personalities

The growing body of research may explain why real estate agents have not become extinct in a technological world.  Instead, the profession has endured.  Moreover, Realtors have embraced technology (for better or worse).  As new technologies make the home buying and selling process easier, the industry will undoubtedly adapt.  The fad of systematizing the real estate transaction, as well as buyer and seller encounters, is in reality a “one-size-fits-some” solution.  In other words, there is a place for the automated and systematic real estate transaction, but it’s not for everyone.

Before you embark on your home buying or selling journey, you should think about your needs.  What are your expectations?

As a real estate consumer, you have a duty to explore your options for real estate services.  You should interview and compare real estate services. Questions to ask your real estate agent before you buy or sell a home:

  • Is there one point of contact, or do you have to deal with a “team” of people for different situations.
  • What do you do if the point of contact is not available?
  • How do they handle unexpected obstacles or emergencies?
  • Ask for recent client references whom you can call.

Original is located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/10/19/real-estate-services-personality/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Hire a reputable mover

mover checklist
Moving Checklist (from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration fmcsa.dot.gov)

Moving is stressful enough without having to deal with a rogue mover.  Before your hire a mover, do your research and know your rights.  Your rights may vary depending if your move is intrastate or interstate.  An intrastate move is within the same state, while an interstate move is between states.  Although intrastate movers are not licensed by the state of Maryland, there are a rules and consumer protection laws governing their business.  However, interstate movers must comply with Federal regulations.

Hiring a mover to move within Maryland (intrastate)

The Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General published The Consumer’s Edge: Hiring a Mover? Protect Yourself!  The publication outlines your rights for a move within the state of Maryland (marylandattorneygeneral.gov). The pamphlet advises that estimates must be written, and must specify if it’s binding or non-binding.  Binding estimates are prohibited to change, while non-binding estimates in Maryland are capped and cannot exceed 25 percent of the original estimate.  Be wary of low-ball estimates, or a mover who does not ask a lot of questions about your possessions.  Don’t sign a blank or incomplete estimate.

Hiring a Mover? Protect Yourself!
Hiring a Mover? Protect Yourself! (from marylandattorneygeneral.gov)

If your move is within Maryland, consult the Maryland Movers Conference.  The MMC is a non-profit organization that is part of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, and works with “governmental authorities and consumer groups to promote the highest standards for the moving industry in Maryland.”  The organization established a Registered Mover Program, where movers abide by a code of ethics and other rules.  You can view valuable consumer info and the MMC’s list of member movers at their website (mdmovers.org).

Hiring an interstate mover

mover pamphlet
FMCSA Ready to Move Brochure
(fmcsa.dot.gov)

If your move is interstate, your mover is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation.  The FMCSA website “Protect Your Move” (www.fmcsa.dot.gov/protect-your-move) provides an abundance of information to help you choose a reputable mover as well as tips and a checklist to help make your move less hectic.  The FMCSA maintains a registry of legitimate interstate movers from which you can search and view licensing, insurance, as well as complaints.

During the planning stage of your interstate move, Federal regulation requires your mover to provide you with a copy of the booklet “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” and a copy of FMCSA’s brochure “Ready to Move.”  These publications (available on the FMCSA website) offer insight to make an informed decision, as well as understand your consumer rights in case something goes awry.


The FMCSA suggests that estimates that sound too good to be true are often a way for scammers to get your business. What are the red flags for which to be on the lookout? Be wary of:

  • Estimates given without onsite inspection of your possessions
  • A demand for cash or a large deposit
  • Blank or incomplete documents
  • Refusal to provide a written estimate
  • Movers who claim to be insured without providing proof
  • A mover who generically answers the phone “movers” instead of using the company’s name
  • No address or insurance info on the company’s website
  • Use of a rental truck instead of a company branded truck.

Moving Rights and Responsibilities
Rights & Responsibilities Booklet (fmcsa.dot.gov)

Movers must deliver your possessions.  Call the police if a mover threatens to not deliver for any reason.  Interstate movers may be in violation of Federal law if they hold your shipment “hostage.”  The FMCSA offers some recourse if you feel victimized by an interstate mover or broker.  The Protect Your Move Website has an online tool to make complaints.  A complaint may trigger a Federal enforcement investigation against the mover.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/08/29/hire-reputable-mover/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism DetectorDisclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.