Monday, July 18, 2011

FTC MARS Ruling Reversed for Short Sale Agents - Maybe



FTC MARS
Finally, the months of dealing with the over-the-top FTC MARS disclosures may be coming to an end for Florida short sale agents. The FTC, in its role of protecting consumers, made a laborious requirement for any business helping short sale sellers or providing mortgage rescue services back in December. The FTC deemed disclosure upon disclosure would be required when offering short sale services or presenting an offer from a lender for loan modification (interpreted as a short sale approval). Unfortunately, real estate agents deal with sellers in short sale situations almost daily, especially in Florida. And short sale real estate agents are not operating “loan modification” services per se, they have to work short sales to just sell homes.
The disclosure basically had to be tacked onto anything a short sale specialist presented to the public in the way of offering short sale listing services. For example, the bottom of each of my short sale blogs has this disclosure (one of the three required):
***NOTICE: This Real Estate Company. is not associated with the government, and our service is not approved by the government or your lender. Even if you accept this offer and use our service, your lender may not agree to change your loan. If you stop paying your mortgage, you could lose your home and damage your credit. ***
Every email I send (since I do many short sales), has the disclosure. All my websites have the disclosure. I tried to fit it on a postcard mailing. It didn’t look good. It took up half the postcard. Forget about the minimum 12 point font that was required. If I sent a standard postcard offering short sale services, with the disclosure in 12 point font, it would BE the whole postcard. I hate to say it, but the disclosure for real estateFTC MARS agents was a bit much. It also confused many short sale sellers, asking "How is a short sale a loan modification?"
Finally, it seems the National Association of Realtors and real estate agents themselves caused enough of an uproar calling the FTC that the rule has been reversed for real estate agents who simply list short sales in the course of business. Specifically, the FTC said:
"Until further notice, the Commission will forbear from taking any enforcement action for violation of the MARS Rule with the exception of the Rule's prohibition against misrepresentations in Section 322.3(b) against a real estate professional who provides "any service, plan, or program, offered or provided to the consumer in exchange for consideration, that is represented, expressly or by implication, to assist or attempt to assist the consumer [in] . . . [n]egotiating, [o]btaining or [a]rranging . . . [a] short sale of a dwelling."
Florida, per the recent Florida Assocation of Realtors newsletter, has not authorized suspending the disclosures just yet. Apparently, we’ll know in about a week whether Florida Attorney Pam Bondi will agree. Meanwhile, I won’t be tweeting the disclosure. Why? It won’t fit!
It's Wendy!
Wendy Rulnick, Broker, Rulnick Realty, Inc.
Call toll-free 1-877-487-9639 or local 850-650-7883 ext 204
Email Wendy: itswendy@rulnickrealty.com


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