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A ‘comedy’ of errors for buyers

July 28, 2017
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

What should we do? We made an offer on what we view as our dream home on a gulf access canal very near the river. It was accepted, and provided for a 15-day inspection period. During this time, we discovered the roof needed serious work. We instructed our Realtor to negotiate with the seller to obtain a $15,000 reduction in purchase price, as well as extend the inspection period and closing date an additional five days.

While we were out of town, our Realtor called to say that the seller had agreed to what was asked for, but that the addendum had to be signed immediately. We would not be near a computer for two days, but our Realtor was insistent that it be signed immediately. She then asked if she could sign her name on our behalf. I assumed that would be OK, since we were getting the terms we needed.

Well, we came home three days later and we were presented with the addendum. To our shock, it provided the $15,000 would be ADDED to the purchase price! It also said nothing about the seven additional days we requested, so now we are beyond the inspection period, and we may not be able to get the loan arranged in time to close. We put a $50,000 deposit down on the house, which we may lose the transaction doesn't close on time. My Realtor has tried to talk to the seller's Realtor about the mistake on the $15,000, but they won't talk to her. We are frustrated, and scared that we could lose a large part of our retirement savings!

- Mary H.

Dear Mary,

This is a terrible situation to be facing, and I am so sorry to hear it. To many, real estate contracts and transactions seem like simple tasks. You are experiencing the reality, as the changing of one word on an addendum could cost you $15,000 or more.

First, you should never sign anything without reading and understanding what the document says. By extension, as a general rule, you should never give permission to a real estate agent to sign a contract or addendum on your behalf. The specifics of your situation need to be carefully reviewed, but your agent may have violated the rules governing real estate agents in Florida, and she may even have committed a crime.

Unfortunately, your problems do not stop there. Assuming the sellers (or a judge at a future trial) determine that the addendum was a forgery and invalid, your issue is not solved. You would then likely be governed by the original contract, under which you advise you are beyond the inspection period, and your $50,000 deposit may now be non-refundable, depending on how your contract is worded.

If you are dealing with professional realtors, they will work together to resolve the issue and sign a new addendum providing for the intent of the parties. However, there may be many reasons why the sellers would like to stick with the forged addendum, like $50,000, if you don't purchase at the higher price, for one, without court action.

A home purchase such as this will be the largest investment many of us will ever make. It is vital you have people working for you that are experienced, competent and follow the law. It sounds like your agent may have failed on some or all of these traits. You may wish to contact the broker under whom your Realtor works and see if the broker can help. With the facts you have presented, you are advised to contact an attorney to assist you immediately.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for 28 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continued his service to the community through his chairmanship of the Harney Point Kiwanis Club KidsFest from 2011-2015, which provides a free day of fun and learning to thousands of Cape Coral families, and funds numerous scholarships. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for 14 years, and they have four children together. Recently, he earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is also a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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