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So you’re having an open house. Remember to tell your realtor sex is not OK

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Real estate lawyers get asked all kinds of oddball questions.

Last week, one of my colleagues asked me how to respond to his client’s query about returning after an Open House at her home to find one of the neatly-made upstairs beds in complete disarray.

If you find a dishevelled bed in your home staged for Open House viewing, find out why from your sales rep and be in touch with your real estate lawyer.
If you find a dishevelled bed in your home staged for Open House viewing, find out why from your sales rep and be in touch with your real estate lawyer.  (Dreamstime)

Obviously, the bed and the bedroom were used either by the real estate agent or some visitors for a purpose which had nothing to do with marketing the house.

How does a lawyer advise the client in this situation? I may have missed this day in law school, but my initial reaction was to suggest confronting the agent to find out what happened. If the agent knew about the incident — or was a participant in it — it might be time to get a new agent and consider a complaint to the brokerage or RECO, the industry regulator.

If the agent did not know, it might be a good time to investigate how the event could have taken place and take steps to prevent a recurrence.

To my surprise, I discovered that the internet is full of apparently real stories of people having sex at Open Houses.

In March, 2006, when the real estate bubble was at its peak, GQ magazine ran a story entitled “Does Real Estate Make You Horny?” It reported on a trend called “house humping,” in which thrill-seeking couples secretively have sex in a closet or bathroom — or other quiet corner of the house — without anyone noticing.

But in his 2016 book The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking, author Dan Mirvish claims that the GQ story, and the “trend” of house humping, were the fruit of a viral stealth campaign unleashed to promote a Weinstein Co. real estate musical called Open House.

Having sex at Open Houses has even gone mainstream.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is an HBO comedy TV series created by Larry David, who also stars in it as a fictionalized version of himself. In a Season 9 episode last year, the character played by actor Jeff Garlin confides about his antics at an Open House.

Garlin: “Remember the realtor from the art gallery?”

David: “Ya.”

Garlin: “Well, she had an open house. And let’s just say it stayed open a little longer for me. Oh ya. Oh ya.”

David: You had sex with her at an Open House?

Garlin: At an Open House.

David: That’s unbelievable.

Garlin: Unbelievable. And you know they have cookies at the open house. I brought the cookies up with me. We had sex, I had some cookies, took a nap …

David: On what?

Garlin: Well, they have the staging furniture.

David: Wow.

Marjorie Garber is an English professor at Harvard University. In her 2000 book Sex and Real Estate: Why We Love Houses she says that the real estate Open House is a socially sanctioned licence to daydream about what goes on behind other people’s closed doors.

“The idea of illicit sex in illicit places,” she writes, “has its own allure in the world of sex and real estate.”

Take the kitchen, she muses, and consider the meaning of the words in the folk song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”: “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the old banjo.”

I’ll never think of the song — or Open Houses — the same way again.

All of this serves as a reminder to home sellers who have agreed to Open Houses that they should establish clear terms with their realtors about monitoring visitors and their activities.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He can be reached at bob@aaron.ca or on Twitter: @bobaaron2

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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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