Action 9 is investigating a home sale offer that has left dozens of local families with legal issues and significant costs.
“That looked like free money?” asked Todd Ulrich, consumer researcher.
“Absolutely true,” replied Carla Turman.
Turman said he received a call after applying for a payday loan online. She said someone from the homeowner benefits program told her she was eligible for $1,300. “And they can have my money in my account within days,” Turman added.
According to Turman, she made an appointment, and a notary showed up in her driveway, not to explain the program, just to get her signature.
“I was asked for ID, told to sign, and told you’ll have the money in your account shortly,” Turman said.
She admits she didn’t read the contract, but she didn’t expect a payday loan offer to turn into a home seller’s nightmare.
“Did anyone at this company say it was a scheme to sell your house?” Ulrich asked.
“No. They didn’t,” Turman replied. “It was awful. It was humiliating.
Reality was a punch Turman discovered when she tried to sell her lakeside home in Orlando. South Florida-based MV Realty blocked the sale.
Her Homeowner Benefit contract she signed gave the company a 40-year exclusive right to list and sell her home because she accepted $1,300 upfront.
In Orange County court, MV Realty placed a lien on his property to enforce his right to sell at 6% commission.
“I felt trapped,” Turman said.
This same contract provided for a cancellation penalty of 3% of the value of his house.
Action 9 first investigated the company two years ago when Eleanor Gardner signed a contract she didn’t understand.
“I don’t want anything to do with these people,” Gardner said.
Since then, Action 9 has found that MV Realty has filed at least 60 lawsuits against landlords in Central Florida to enforce liens that blocked their homes from being sold unless they used its real estate company. The Florida Attorney General is actively investigating.
A joint investigation by Cox Media Group, WFTV’s parent company, in seven states found similar complaints from owners who felt trapped by 40-year sales contracts.
In many cases, owners had no idea what they were signing.
“I said, Lord, have mercy,” Julie Henry said.
Henry, who lives in Georgia, thought it was a grant, but felt blindsided by MV Realty’s request to use it to sell his home or pay thousands to cancel.
“I haven’t seen a contract. I didn’t see anything,” Henry said.
“A lot of these companies use a lot of techniques to pressure someone into signing up quickly,” said Sarah Mancini of the National Consumer Law Center. She reviewed the complaints from MV Realty. She worries that low-income homeowners will be offered money upfront in a confusing and confusing contract that could be costly.
“At the end of the day, they could end up owing a lot more than the money they were given up front,” Mancini said.
Ulrich contacted MV Realty. A company representative said that’s not how it works. They said Turman and Henry met with real estate agents who fully disclosed the 40-year contract, fees and penalties before signing, and that no misleading sales tactics were used. The company said it has thousands of satisfied customers and a small number of complaints.
Turman said she was forced to register with MV Realty months after a hot real estate market cooled and will lose thousands selling her home now.
“I don’t get what I ask for,” Turman said.
If someone offers you quick cash to sell your home, before signing, review traditional real estate listing agreements that last for months, not years, and have no surprise fees.
MV Realty also told Action 9 that its agent found a buyer for Turman’s home, but demanded a lower commission, which was a breach of contract. The company also added contract disclosures that the company will file legal documents regarding your exclusive contract, and if you use another realtor, MV still collects their 6% commission.
Response from MV Realty:
That’s not how the MV Reality business works. Notarial visits are the last step in our process. Once someone agrees to receive information from MV Realty – either by visiting our website or a partner website – we pre-screen the application before assigning a real estate agent to speak to the client. The real estate agent carefully explains the Owner’s Benefit program and walks the client through the terms of the Owner’s Benefit Agreement so that there is no misunderstanding. MV then determines the value of the home and provides a written offer. Only after the owner has verbally accepted the offer of compensation and the terms of the contract will MV schedule a meeting and notary visit – depending on the owner’s availability for the notary’s signing/visit. The owner receives the money immediately but can terminate the agreement up to three days after signing.
It is important to note that in a phone call we had with Mrs. Turman on 9/15/2022, she reported that she had a positive experience listing her home with MV Realty, but she threatened to go to the media to complain about MV. Realty if we did not eliminate the 3% contractual commission. An email summarizing this call is attached for your reference. (Note: Subsequently, the sale negotiated by our agent failed because the property had been undervalued by $54,000. The buyer was prepared to pay $36,000 more than the estimated price, but Ms. Turman declined the offer and took the property off the market.)
Re: Eleanor Gardner, we’re sorry to hear she’s ill. That said, the responses we previously sent you for your previous story are still accurate. Below I summarize some relevant points from that answer:
MV Realty did not knock on Ms. Gardner’s door. She submitted a request to MV Realty through our website or an affiliate, which MV responded to with a phone call. We didn’t target her for the solicitation – that’s not how our business operates.
Ms. Gardner received and retained $1,000 from MV Realty. She has not raised any disputes about the service we provided or raised any allegations that we have restricted her ability to do what she wants with her home. But it looks like she now wants to cancel the contract now and keep the $1,000.
Ms. Gardener contacted us seeking money and was told verbally and in writing that the HBA is a 40 year contract, which she agreed to. She never disputed that what she was told is consistent with what is in the agreement.
After being paid by MV Realty, it appears Ms. Gardener is trying to use WFTV ABC Orlando’s Consumer Protection Team to help her keep the money we paid her and avoid having to honor the standard business contract it has entered into with MV Realty. We are pro-consumer and pro-owner, but we also run a business based on offering upfront cash incentives in exchange for the right to sell the owner’s property – if and when they choose to do so. Despite the superficial view of this situation, we believe that his actions are unfair.
The timing of his contract dispatch was slowed down due to Covid-19 restrictions, in which the MV Realty office was closed for some time. Employees could not get to the office where his deal was. This created a backlog of agreements. It is undisputed, however, that Ms. Gardner knew of the agreement since she signed it and received and withheld $1,000 from MV.
Clearly the discrepancies that some of the owners have stated really have nothing to do with the disclosures or the fine print or not knowing what they signed. It’s clear they intended to take the money and deliberately violate their contracts without giving MV Realty the chance to sell their home. That’s just what the Owner Benefits Program is all about. MV has over 30,000 HBA customers; we have thousands of satisfied customers, and the small number of complaints doesn’t even match the large number of satisfied HBA customers. As a media that is supposed to be objective and report facts, please ask those who criticized – they got the money for something, what do they suggest they did to respect their part of the deal? They said they didn’t understand, but why did they think they received the money, and what action did they take to honor what they thought the deal was for, they certainly understood that was an opportunity for us to be their agent, show us a step they took to give MV Realty the opportunity to be their agent?
The memorandum (not a lien) serves as public notice of the homeowners commitment to give MV the opportunity to represent them in the sale of their home. This is to protect MV in the event a homeowner attempts to sell their home without allowing MV to be their agent.
The company has a strong ongoing commitment to consumer disclosures and is constantly adding to it. Some of these disclosures include, but are not limited to, clear and unambiguous language of the contract itself in large print which includes the description of the 40-year term, the filing of the memorandum and the termination fee, all in BOLD and the circumstances in which they would be due.
The same disclosures are again outlined in a single page document signed by the client. Moreover, the company website prominently displays these same key program features. As well as a vast FAQs section.
MV Realty is working diligently to respond to any requests from Attorneys General. Our goal is zero complaints. The vast majority of our RAP participants have a great experience with us, as evidenced by their five-star ratings as well as the number of sales we’ve closed for them – over 700 to date.
The purpose of the HBA is for someone to give our business the opportunity to list their home for sale. Although the duration of the agreement covers 40 years, our possibility of representing the seller is only six months, after which, if he can sell his house successfully alone or with another broker on the same conditions, he owes nothing to MV .