WSVN — They signed a contract with a real estate broker to help them find a house. And when they tried to back out of a deal, he said they had to pay him, even though they didn’t buy a house. If you ever want to buy a home, take a look at Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Many people remember the search to buy their first home.

Sabine Elisee: "What it feels like, you’re looking at homes, you’re walking into houses, all the exciting things about it."

With two young boys, Sabine and Vicly decided their apartment was too small and they needed a house.

Sabine Elisee: "And you hear every now and then that this is the biggest purchase you’ll make in their life, this is the hardest thing to take months and months to find."

For help, they called a broker they saw in a magazine. After showing them 27 homes on the first day, they went back to his office.

Sabine Elisee: "Then and there he says, ‘This is a simple broker’s agreement. Just to know that I represent you and I will be taking care of you.’"

After they signed an agreement to hire the broker, they also signed a separate contract to make an offer on one of the houses they saw that day. It was accepted, they put down a $10,000 deposit, and just before the closing, they did their final walk-through.

Sabine Elisee: "My 4-year-old has allergies. We look up at the ceiling, around the AC vents looks like black mold. There’s water damage. There were things that were not visible because there was furniture that was blocking it. We cannot close on this home."

Sabine called her broker to let him know they were backing out of the deal and needed to look for another house.

Sabine Elisee: "He says to me, ‘You’re going to close on this home. You’re gonna go today and you’re gonna go to the title company, you’re gonna sign that agreement.’"

Sabine says the broker reminded her of the contract she signed when they hired him, entitling him to the commission. And, she says, he threatened to sue them for nearly $12,000, which would have been his commission if they had bought the house.

Sabine Elisee: "It’s horrible, it’s heartbreaking, it’s saddening."

Well, Howard, they say they found things in the walk-through that they didn’t know about and wanted to back out of the deal. Can they be on the hook to have to pay their broker?

Howard Finkelstein: "If the buyer can show there was a hidden defect that the seller knew about but didn’t disclose, then they can get out of the deal. But otherwise, if you sign that buyer-broker agreement, the broker can claim part of your deposit and sue for their commission. However, there is a simple solution: You don’t have to sign that agreement. And in fact, there are many brokers who will do the same work without it."

We contacted the broker. He told us when Sabine mentioned mold, he told her to get a mold inspection. He said she never responded.

He told us he wants his clients to sign a contract, because in the past, he has found a house for someone, then they let their friend handle the purchase and collect his commission. He also told us he is not sure if he actually will sue Sabine and her husband for his commission.

Sabine Elisee: "It’s an expensive lesson to learn."

Some good news for Sabine. The seller and their realtor have agreed to return some of the deposit, but the title company won’t release it until Sabine’s broker agrees to the deal, and he has not yet.  

Sabine Elisee: "We are just looking, and we are praying and hoping that all of this will get behind us so we can get on with our lives."

Howard mentioned you don’t have to sign an agreement when you work with a broker to find a house for you, but if they are selling your house, you need to sign the agreement because they are spending money to advertise your house. And they have right to get that back when your property is sold.

A problem left you broke ‘er close to it? Need someone to search for a solution? Contact us. You don’t have to sign a contract with us. We are free. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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