How Did the Banks Get Agents to Shoulder the Load?

Woman with houseIn Virginia when you sign a listing agreement with a seller it states that the “seller retains full responsibility for the property, including all utilities, maintenance, physical security and liability until title of the property is transferred to purchaser.” Seems simple enough or is it in today’s market?

When an agent goes to meet with a prospective seller to talk about listing their home it would never cross the sellers or our minds to suggest that we will have all of the utilities transferred to our name to make it easier for the owner. Nor would we agree to take on the responsibility for cleaning their home or keeping the yard mowed. However, every day lenders are asking agents to do this and agents are saying YES.

Why? We don’t own the property or have any financial interest in it and still agents are willingly taking on the financial burden just because the banks ask them to. Many agents I’ve talked to who handle a large numbers of foreclosures are shelling out thousands of dollars in expenses to maintain a property. In some cases reimbursements are slow and if work needs to be done they are required to call the lenders “preferred” contractor. If an emergency repair is needed and the preferred contractor isn’t available they risk not being reimbursed by the lender unless they can verify the gravity of the emergency.

On top of the out of pocket expenses, the listing agent often has to wait until the end of the transaction to find out if the lender is going to ask them to reduce their commission to help the lender meet their NET. How did this trend start? Was it one agent who said yes and then the banks began to play the other agents one against another for a cut of the business? Was it an entire brokerage that agreed to it and then everyone else had to follow suit?

If lenders require that the utilities be on (at minimum electricity should be on for safety reasons) then why don’t they set up corporate accounts with the major utility companies in the area where they have large pockets of foreclosures? Why don’t they have a direct 30 day billing cycle with their approved contractors? Why are they relying on agents to take on the accounting and financial burden of selling their properties for them?

The practice is contradictory to our own listing agreements and yet hundreds of agents across our area are willingly taking on the burden. It shouldn’t be a Realtors® responsibility to go into debt in order to sell a foreclosure listing. Wouldn’t it be better if ONE MILLION plus Realtors® would stand up and say “we’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore” and let the lenders take the responsibility of paying the bills on the properties they own?

9 thoughts on “How Did the Banks Get Agents to Shoulder the Load?

  1. Preach it, sister! Yeah! This is the craziest business model I’ve ever seen. I guess as long as there are so many agents, many will feel pressured to accept whatever conditions are offered. But it’s a bad long term business strategy!

  2. Julie-I was beyond surprised when I spoke with an agent who has thousands of dollars of receivables every month while carrying bank listings. I’m not willing to put out my money for a lender who has far deeper pockets than I do.

  3. Susan-You said it well HOPE. I think the banks do pay in the end but in the meantime it is an agents hard earned money that is on the line.

  4. Cindy,

    I read your post, then read it again to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood. I’m sure there are many agents working foreclosures under this “arrangement” who must flip a coin to decide whether to pay their own utility bill or those of their listings at month’s end. Can your local boards not lobby on your behalf to put the brakes on such an onerous practice?

  5. Riley-I’m curious how this all started as well as why as agents would accept the responsibility for all the fees.

  6. Lauren-Since taking on paying the sellers bills violates our current listing agreement I would think our RE Board might want to take a look at the practice.

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