A Carlsbad, Calif., real estate broker who showed a couple dozens of properties before they plunked down $1.2 million for a home near a golf course fulfilled his fiduciary duties to his clients and was not negligent, a jury has ruled.
RE/MAX agent Mike Little was sued by his former clients, Marty and Vern Ummel, who claimed they paid $150,000 too much for their home in northern San Diego County. The Ummels claimed Little failed to tell them about similar homes nearby that sold for less.
Little’s attorney, David Bright, said the agent was unfairly blamed for the decline in value of the Ummel’s house after they purchased it in July, 2005. Bright argued that homes that sold for less than the couples’ had features that made them less desirable.
After a two-week trial, a jury found that Little did not breach his fiduciary duty to the Ummels, providing assistance in their three-month house hunt that included advising them on offers they made on other homes, the Voice of San Diego reported.
Bright told the paper that Realtors have become scapegoats for a declining market, and that the trial demonstrated the hard work that real estate professionals perform for their clients.
Vinnie Tracey, President of RE/MAX International, took issue with news reports that the case raised the possibility that courts might hold real estate agents for lower home values.
"This case was never about falling prices or the current real estate market," Tracey said in a statement. "It was simply about the unfounded claims of an individual home buyer, claims that could not be substantiated in any way."
The Ummels, who gained notoriety picketing RE/MAX offices and home listings, filed suit against Little and RE/MAX Associates in July, 2006. The Ummels attorney said the couple has not decided if they will appeal the decision.
Marty Ummel told the Voice of San Diego that the decision sends "a bad message to people about the real estate industry," because it demonstrated there is not the relationship of trust clients expect.
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