My phone rang off the hook over the weekend but it wasn't sellers looking for a Sacramento short sale agent to list and sell their home. It was sellers who already had listed with me and who had received an email from DocuSign. My transaction coordinator sent out the MARS disclosures on Saturday. I knew these forms would be difficult to explain the minute I laid eyes on them.
The MARS forms are meant to protect the public from ripoff schemes and scam artists, especially those who charge fees in advance for negotiating a loan modification or a short sale -- many of which never materialize. It's a shame that when you find people in trouble, the sharks come out of the woodwork, but that's what has been going on in California and across the nation. People in danger of losing their homes find themselves directly in the path of a tornado. It's like their home has a blinking neon overhead that screams out: victim, come and get me. Crooks are everywhere. I don't blame people for being afraid.
Because real estate agents and brokers deal in the short sale market, the government has decided that MARS disclosures apply to us as well. So, even though we don't charge fees in advance and are paid commission by the banks at closing, the government says we have to give these disclosures to our sellers. They don't contain anything I haven't already told them because our listing agreements for short sales are woefully inadequate as well.
I tell sellers that they have the right to approve the short sale letter we'll get from the bank. Doesn't even matter if they're under contract with a buyer -- the entire transaction is subject to the seller's approval of the terms and conditions contained in the short sale approval letter. I tell them nobody will make them sell their home. They can cancel the purchase contract and the listing agreement at any time.
You would have thought that NAR could have made the forms a little more explicit. For example, the second disclosure says the commission paid is the same as the number in the first disclosure, but it's often not. Didn't NAR talk to any short sale agents before coming up with these forms? Sellers have a hard enough time understanding that they don't really pay the commission, but leave it to NAR to make it even more confusing.
Now I hear that the government thinks it might have made a mistake by forcing agents to send out the MARS disclosures. Within a few weeks, we'll find out if the government will exempt us from giving a disclosure to sellers that make us look like crooks when we're not.