Husband can force sale of house that’s center of divorce

Q: I have wanted to sell my house for a long time, but my wife won’t agree or sign the papers. We still own the house together, and when we got divorced last year, I didn’t move out. It’s an unhappy situation, and I still want to sell. What can I do? — P. W.

A: Check with your lawyer. Unless your divorce agreement said something to the contrary, you probably have the right to force a court-ordered sale of the house. That’s an unpleasant way to handle things. And, such a sale seldom results in the buyers getting full value. Perhaps mentioning the possibility of a court-ordered sale will encourage you two to reach an agreement.

Did agent cheat?

Q: We used a real estate company to sell our parents’ highly desirable golf-course patio home. The Realtor also brought the eventual buyer, who toured the home during an open house. Before we got their offer, however, the agent changed the multiple-listing-service status to “Pending Sale.” I noticed this and brought it to her attention. She blamed it on other websites. I told her to put the house back at “For Sale” status immediately. After waiting a week, I called the senior broker and had it done.

Apparently, the eventual buyers, who were also her clients, wanted to make a noncontingent offer, but they hadn’t sold their home. It appears that our agent tried to save my parents’ home for her clients. She eventually sold the buyers’ home, too, so she earned two commissions, which I imagine sparked the deception.

During the same open house, another couple offered cash for the full price. We were never told. These potential buyers were told that another offer had already been accepted, which wasn’t true.

I learned all of this because this couple bought the patio home next door. We met them, and they told us what happened. My parents’ home sold for $50,000 less than their cash offer. —

A: Usually, the agent who lists your home, the managing broker and the brokerage company all owe you, the client, certain specific fiduciary duties.

The duties boil down to this: The agent is obligated to put the client’s interests first before anyone else’s, including the agent’s.

If those eventual buyers were really the agent’s clients, she may have been practicing undisclosed dual agency.

That’s a difficult situation legally. One fiduciary duty calls for obedience to your lawful instructions, which did not happen when your agent left your home at “Pending Sale” status. Another duty requires immediate presentation of any written offer. But it sounds as if the all-cash potential buyers never got that far. You have several options, which are progressively more serious.

• You can protest to the managing broker, who bears legal responsibility for the agent’s actions.

• You can contact the local Association of Realtors office. The National Association of Realtors is a private trade organization to which most local brokerage firms belong. It has procedures for enforcing its own code of ethics.

• You can file a complaint with the state agency that administers real estate licenses.

• If your neighbors are willing to testify they offered $50,000 more than the buyers, you can consult a lawyer to see if it’s worth suing.

Contact Edith Lank at, or at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester NY 14620.

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