Ms. Corrs served as a real estate agent for a lake front property. While preparing the marketing materials for the listing of the property, Ms. Corrs viewed the tax assessor’s online records and determined the property had 150 feet of water front footage. To verify, Ms. Corrs asked the seller if the property had 150 feet of water front footage. The seller stated that she was unsure, but thought it sounded right. Since Ms. Corrs was led to believe that the property had 150 feet of waterfront footage, she listed it for $625,000.
Interested buyers, the Miltons, decided to purchase the property. The Miltons also intended to purchase some of the furniture in the residence. However, there were disagreements between Ms. Corrs and the Miltons on the value of the furniture. A couple of days before the closing, the Miltons were still complaining about the furnishings in the property, at which time Ms. Corrs gave them the option to either sign the contract, or walk away from the deal.1 The Miltons agreed to sign the contract, and then closed the transaction a few days later.
A few weeks after the sale, Ms. Corrs received a letter from the Miltons indicating that the waterfront footage was only 100 feet and not the 150 feet that was advertised. Ms. Corrs thought she had suggested that the Miltons obtain a survey of the property, to which they declined.2 However, the Miltons claim Ms. Corrs suggested a survey was a waste of time and money, and not necessary.
The Miltons filed suit alleging breach of duty, unjust enrichment, and fraudulent representation, and demanded $75,000 in damages. The case was eventually settled for $30,000.
Risk Factor #1
The sale of the personal property should have been dealt with separately, and between the seller and buyer only. It was not part of the “real property” and not covered under a professional E&O policy. The buyer’s interest in the personal property seemed to detract from the sale of the actual real estate.
Risk Factor #2
When the buyers refused the suggested survey, the agent should have had them sign a statement of refusal. The agent could have checked the recorded county records to confirm the water front footage, instead of accepting the general and often inaccurate listing information.