The New Hampshire Association of Realtors has filed a complaint against ISoldMyHouse.com, asking that the for-sale-by-owner Web site be sanctioned for allegedly acting as a broker without a license.
The complaint, filed with the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission, asks that the commission require ISoldMyHouse.com to repay all fees collected from New Hampshire residents and “also sanction ISMH at a level commensurate with the scope of violations demonstrated.”
ISoldMyHouse general manager John F. Gallagher on Thursday said the allegations are unfounded and not rooted in truth.
“We look at this as being totally frivolous,” Gallagher said. “We feel it’s a desperate move on the Realtors’ trade group of New Hampshire to try and put up a smokescreen. We feel that the traditional real estate agent has a broken business model.”
ISoldMyHouse is a classified advertising service, Gallagher said, comparing it to a glorified version of the real estate ads in the Sunday newspaper. The company advertises homes for sale on its Web site for a $95 fee. The company also offers more extensive advertising packages, starting at $295 and ranging up to $2,000, he said. Those packages can include advertising in local newspapers as well as on local television shows.
The association, however, contends ISoldMyHouse is acting as a real estate broker, not simply an advertising service. The complaint is not an attack on a Web-based business, said attorney John Sullivan, who filed the complaint on behalf of the association. He said it’s simply an attempt to get the company to comply with the law.
“We have received some complaints through our membership about people having bad experiences with this company,” Sullivan said. “We spent some time reviewing their Web site and the services they were offering, and concluded that under New Hampshire law what they were doing was clearly practicing brokerage.”
ISoldMyHouse is an affiliate of East/West Mortgage, whose parent company is Commerce Bank and Trust of Worcester, Mass. The service began in New England, but is slowly expanding nationwide, Gallagher said.
In its complaint, the association alleges that ISoldMyHouse:
- Lists nearly 800 New Hampshire properties and claims to sell hundreds of properties weekly.
- Lists properties for a fee, has a tie-in to a national Multiple Listing Service for a fee and claims ownership of the listings.
- Claims to supply pre-approved buyers.
- Offers legal forms and advises sellers and buyers.
- Charges fees, including charges to buyers agents.
Gallagher’s reaction to the detailed allegations was simple: “Get a life.”
More specifically, he said the company doesn’t actually sell the properties, but the Web site helps facilitate the sales. The company does not negotiate any sale, it simply places the house information online. ISoldMyHouse has no affiliation with an MLS, nor does the company own the listings.
The company screens potential home buyers by pre-qualifying them for a mortgage through East/West Mortgage, but ISoldMyHouse accepts buyers’ pre-qualifications from other lenders, Gallagher said. The idea behind the pre-qualification is simply to make sure sellers aren’t bothered by people who aren’t serious about buying a home, he said.
The company does not offer any legal advice, he said, and buyers are sellers are only advised on homes as it relates to closing a loan.
Citing confidentiality guidelines, Beth Emmons, executive director of the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission, said she could not confirm receipt of the complaint.
In general, once the commission receives a complaint, it begins its investigation of the allegations, she said. Once the investigation is complete, a commission member evaluates the information.
If the member determines the complaint doesn’t warrant a hearing, the matter is closed. However, if the member determines a meeting is necessary, the complaint is discussed during a public hearing of the commission. Afterwards, the commission votes on whether disciplinary action is warranted.
That action can include suspending, revoking or denying a real estate license if the person in question holds one, imposing fines of up to $2,000 for each offense and/or issuing “cease and desist” orders.
Gallagher acknowledges ISoldMyHouse’s “ulterior motives” – he hopes those who use that service also will use East/West Mortgage for loans. The company doesn’t make money from a home sale, but makes money if buyers or sellers close a loan through East/West. No one using ISoldMyHouse, however, is required to use East/West Mortgage, he said.
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