March 19, 2015
There is an issue that comes up all the time when a property is in escrow and someone asks me what it sold for. First of all, it’s not sold; it’s in escrow. It’s only “sold” when escrow closes and the title transfers from the seller to the buyer. Second, it’s against the law for the listing agent to divulge to ANYONE what price the seller accepted from the buyer. There is nothing to stop the buyer and seller from telling, but an agent could lose his or her license for doing so. I sometimes get the feeling that people think I’m making this up but I’m not. The purpose of the law is to protect the seller’s best interest. If everyone knows that the seller took $50K less than the asking price, and the buyer backs out of the transaction for any reason, what chance will the seller have of getting more money when the property is re-listed? As an example, let’s say it was listed for $400K, but the seller accepted a price of $350K. The listing agent tells every other agent in town. But it turns out later that the buyer can’t get financing. The deal is said to “fall out of escrow”; that is, the escrow is cancelled. Now what? The seller wants to put the property back on the market for $400K, but every agent in town knows it was under contract for $350K. The seller finds out this happened and files a grievance against his agent and that agent is fined and has his license suspended or revoked. The deal is, if no one knows what the accepted price was, the seller can put the property back on the Market at $400K and this time he might get $375K. That’s the bottom line; to protect the customer’s best interests. It’s called a “fiduciary responsibility”; the agent is responsible for his client’s financial wellbeing.