Starting today, a service used by real estate agents to list homes for sale will require that agents disclose whether a bank owns the property.
The change comes two days after The Palm Beach Post reported that some banks, including Wells Fargo, tell real estate agents not to disclose the bank’s ownership on the Multiple Listing Service. Until now, the MLS in this region did not require agents to describe a home as being “bank owned,” but in other parts of the country, the information is required. Some agents who sell bank-owned property privately said they feared losing business if they went against the wishes of the banks.
Last week, Tyler Smith, vice president of REO Community Development for Premier Asset services, a Wells Fargo division that sells bank-owned property, said the directive to agents was done so buyers would not avoid bank-owned real estate . Smith said Wells Fargo has been improving the condition of its properties .
Even though a home’s ownership can be obtained through public records, some agents say they would prefer to have the information disclosed on the MLS before they take a client to a home .
On Monday, Eric Sain, president of the Regional MLS, said the MLS has created a category field called REO (real estate owned) that agents will be required to fill out. Sain said the move had been in the works for months, as the regional MLS adapts to changes in the real estate market.
“We’re changing with the times,” said Sain, who hopes the rule will lead to more accurate home descriptions and less frustration for real estate agents and buyers. “We want to make the process easier for agents.”
The rule applies only to new listings to avoid interfering with agreements between banks and agents who sell bank-owned homes, Sain said.
Kevin Dickenson, a Prudential Florida Realty agent who first noticed the missing information on the MLS listings, called the REO field a “good move” and said it would help boost the sale of properties.
Some buyers specifically want bank-owned homes, Dickenson said, while others do not because many REO homes need major work.
Some real estate agents were surprised to learn that banks were directing agents to hide their ownership of homes. Sharon Harrington of Realty Elite Destination in Wellington said asking an agent to hide the information “goes against the rules of our profession” to disclose all known information about a property.
The state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation prohibits misrepresentation and concealment by real estate agents, but it does not specifically address bank-owned properties, said Sandi Copes Poreda, director of communications.
But Craig Fialkowski of Realty Elite of the Palm Beaches in Wellington called hiding ownership on the MLS “unconscionable. There is absolutely no reason a seller should authorize (an agent) not to disclose material facts pertinent to the buyer’s interest in the property.”
Fialkowski sells property owned by Regions Bank, which he said does not prevent him from disclosing that a home is bank owned.