Even Lawyers Make Mistakes

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty

 A Crazy College Professor Clipart Image

Attending a real estate continuing education class, one would expect to receive not only good information but correct information.  Such was my expectation when I attended a required Ethics Update MCE class last week.  A lawyer from a title company taught the class and was delivering the latest updates to our Code of Ethics.  Sitting on the front row I tried to look engaged and thoughtful as I was suppressing a huge yawn.  Then my boredom was snapped to wide eye as the instructor was answering some questions over the material.  Did I hear his response correct? 

The question that was asked had to do with a current situation.  Are we protected on citing a square footage on a property so long as we have a verifiable source?  The student went on to explain that there are three sources that have three different square footage calculations for the property and of course the seller wants to use the largest number.  Without further clarification the instructor answered so long as you have a verifiable source you are protected and that would be just fine to use the one that reflected the largest square footage.  That was that, plain and simple.

Cringe ... I couldn't believe that ended a perfect opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation.  If I were the instructor I would have clarified the situation.  Let's just say that there are three sources.  Two are from appraisers who measured the home once when it was purchased and another when they refinanced.  The other source was from the Appraisal District who went off the builder's plans when the home was permitted to be built.  Let's say in this scenario that the two appraiser's calculations are very close and the tax department is 300 feet larger.  Does that change the answer?  Knowing that the Appraisal District sometimes erroneously includes optional bonus rooms that never were built and did not physically measure the home the possibility of their accuracy being off is high.  By quoting the Appraisal District Tax square footage knowing that there are two better sources that are close certainly would open both seller and agency to a lawsuit should the buyer ever call this to question.  Just by quoting a verifiable source does not excuse overlooking better information.  Unless you like to be sued and lose this was not a very thoughtful response to the question posed by the student.

Unfortunately there were several other wrong pieces of information given out in the class.  So now I understand why some Realtors make errors in the business.  They unfortunately have learned it in the classroom.  Well at least my attention was more peaked for the class.  Now I am in the process of letting the teacher and the school that put this class on know of their errors and a few shared thoughts about their responsibility to be accurate.  Another lesson is to check out the facts and even real estate teachers can make mistakes, even lawyers.



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Larry Riggs
Century 21 Redwood - Frederick, MD
GRI, SRS Your Frederick County Specialist


      As an ethics instructor I share your concern. I have brought up to the chair of our education committee that we have to make sure our teachers are all on the same page. In our area the tax record shows square footage. I tell agents NEVER make representations about actual square footage. Agents have been sued over this very issue. If, as that lawyer said, the agent made a representation about square footage, and the number is larger, agents have been successfully sued for the price per square foot difference. Our contract clearly states the agents and broker are making no representations about the physical attributes of the property. I always tell agents to refer their clients to those "reliable" sources. Bottom line, if the client gathers information from sources then those sources are accountable for the information. If the agent secures and passes along information the agent then can be held liable. Question??? Was the lawyer passing out their cards at the class?

Jan 26, 2009 01:28 AM #1
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

I am a TREC and GRI instructor in Texas.  Many times I will say something and a student will say "that is not what our other instructor told us".  I also wish there was some way we could all be on the same page.

There are some real estate items where ones personal way of doing things may be different, but there or other things that are either right or wrong. 


Jan 26, 2009 05:18 AM #2
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Connie Goodrich

CRS ABR (McKinney Realtor)Texas
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