By Gary S. Mueller, Mueller & Associates, LTD
As I write this, the calendar indicates that Spring has “officially started”. I trust all will agree that Spring could NOT come fast enough. Also, the calendar indicates that professional baseball’s spring training is underway, and the NCAA Mens’ Basketball Tourney will be held this year---unlike the COVID-19 plagued year of 2020. In short, all seems to be improving.
I hope your business has shown an increase in work as well. As I hear, inventory is still an issue. I was told that the current available inventory of homes for sale is slightly under 100 units for the areas of Peotone, Mokena, New Lenox, Frankfort and the east side of Joliet. This same area would typically have about 1200 units available. I suspect the inventory issue may be “righted” toward the end of the year, if not sooner, once banks are allowed to resume foreclosures. I mention this as a gentle reminder to make sure you are ready for the change in the market. 2021 has the makings of a great real estate year. I suggest a constant review and analysis of your business plan is in order. Stay ahead of any surge, when possible.
I also write this article to serve as a reminder that identity theft, scams, and hacks are STILL ongoing. I am involved in a case defending a REALTOR ® who was dragged into litigation because he was on the email stream with the parties to a transaction, the title company, and the lender. In short, one or more of the computers involved in the transaction was hacked---resulting in funds wired to close the deal by the buyer were not directed to the correct address for the title company---and the money was gone. As you may know if you receive any emails from my office, my office makes it abundantly clear to anyone receiving an email that our office does NOT get involved with the process of wiring funds, our office does not deal with wiring instructions, and directs any recipient to call and speak with an actual human at the title company or lender to confirm all terms of a wire before initiating a wire. Another practice tip/reminder---do NOT email wiring instructions, social security numbers, or the like. When required to share this type of information, speak directly with the intended recipient and FAX documents. Hackers can and will get emails. Thus far, their ability to hack faxes or direct phone calls remains limited if not non-existent.
Concerning hacks and scams, I just dealt with a scam situation today concerning a very close friend and longtime client. The friend is a professional and received a phone call alleging that the caller was from IDFPR, the caller had been in contact with the FBI, and my friend was going to lose the license the friend had to practice her profession temporarily until issues concerning alleged money laundering and improper prescription practices were fully investigated. The caller told my friend a) do not tell anyone or the costs and expenses will skyrocket, b) stand by the fax to take off any paperwork so that no one else sees it (under the guise that the faxed documents would be embarrassing to my friend), c) the FBI would call or fax my friend about the suspension, and d) my friend was to text the caller whenever my friend was going to leave the office. Long story short----if the facts presented HAD been true, the FBI would have swarmed my friend’s office---the FBI does not simply call someone and definitely does not fax notices or warnings. Thus, if you get a similar call----take a deep breath. Do not share any personal or business details of your company. Write down the date, time, length of call, and any details of the call (in case the FBI will accept a report). Reach out to your phone system provider to make sure there are no issues or bugs with your phones. Reach out to our IT personnel/contractor to have your computer system reviewed and cleaned (if needed).
With the market being as it currently is, as a practice tip, remind yourself what and how to handle multiple offer situations. I field many questions on that topic and typically redirect the questions back to the agent’s office and the agent’s corporate attorney. When in doubt, IR and NAR have a great deal of educational material on this subject. Once again, make sure you are up to date on all requirements so that you are never faced with any potential grievance for the way you negotiated a multiple offer situation.
Finally, I want to share a situation that just happened with me and a REALTOR ® from Chicago. I represent the contract purchaser of a very expensive condo in Chicago. I reviewed the contract and sent an attorney modification letter. In doing so, I included the agent in the email so that our office could keep the agent informed of the progress of the file. I received an email from the agent with her “suggestions” for what should have been in my attorney modification letter (which she also sent to my clients) indicating that her suggestions would help protect the buyers. I was livid. First, her “suggestions” were not presented as suggestions. They were written as a lawyer would write in a letter. When I challenged her, she said that her suggestions were “standard in Chicago”-----though the agent is not a lawyer. I reminded her that there are no “standard” suggestions in an attorney modification letter, that the letter to opposing counsel must be specific to the transaction, and that requests in an attorney modification letter must be “deal breakers” (in my opinion), as the seller can terminate the deal over the suggestions. The suggestions were requests I have seen from other attorneys, but each of the ELEVEN suggestions she presented were inapplicable to the contract. I sent her a strongly worded email indicating that what she had done was far outside the bounds of filling in blanks in a standard, approved real estate contract and, though I believe her suggestions constituted the unauthorized practice of law, I would refrain from submitting any complaint provided all professionals remain in their respective “lanes” for the remainder of the deal. I acknowledged that she is a quality agent and that we are focused on the same goal, but her “suggestions” were inappropriate, inaccurate, and would actually NOT protect the clients. I share this with you to remind all this practice tip. I do not want any of us to be on the wrong side of a complaint suggesting anyone committed the unauthorized practice of law.
I hope each of you remains safe and healthy. Thank you for all you do.