Dear Monty: If I wanted to check to find out if a real estate agent sold a house to a relative, which is illegal in Connecticut, how would I go about checking to find out? In my opinion, she sold my mom’s house too cheap at $196,000. The house had a 4-acre lot with a remodeled Cape Cod on a dead-end road in the country.
Monty’s Answer: Checking to find out who a person’s relatives are is complicated. Suppose the individual you are seeking to learn about is an “average” person, and most of us are. In that case, blood relatives and familial relationships are a bit easier to trace. But with non-blood relatives, it may take interviews with several family members to get a sense of where to start.
If I were curious about a person’s lineage, I would start by asking the person I want to know more about. Tracing relatives becomes much more difficult when the person is named John Smith and when they may not want their family researched.
Some genealogists will research family histories for a fee. According to their Standards of Practice, they will seek permission from family members before accepting assignments. https://bit.ly/3J6UDtQ
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I am unaware of any state that prevents a real estate agent from selling property to a relative. Still, I am aware that most states require written disclosure and written client acceptance “before” that event.
Have you spoken to your mother about your concern? Can she show you the comparable sales the real estate agent chose to share with her as being truly comparable when they were discussing the value of the home? Does your mother feel as though she accepted less than she should have? How long was the property on the market — two days or two years? Time on the market leaves tracks that are much easier to follow than researching for potential relatives.
You did not reveal what “too cheap” meant. Were there price reductions along the way? Were there other offers? How many? How often? What did people who looked at the home and passed state as the reason? What is the condition of the house? Many data points about the property could affect what a willing buyer, fully informed and not acting under duress, would be prepared to pay depending on those answers.
Here is a Dear Monty article about challenging a home appraisal. http://bit.ly/KNr9N3. You are challenging a sale price, which is a very similar event. It may, or may not, provide information that will confirm your intuition that the house was worth more. My experience is that country homes are more difficult to evaluate than property within municipal boundaries because there are fewer comparable sales against the subject property. Some appraisers will decline rural assignments for that reason.
Consider seeking to understand the homes’ range of value at the time of the sale. Was $196,000 at the low end of the range of value? If you ordered a dozen appraisals today, you would get a dozen different answers and they would vary over 25% in that price range for a country property.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “House Money: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or at DearMonty.com
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