Ethics at the local level

Here I have a whole universe to consider and yet the gnat in the ointment is nagging me.  Hope it ain’t a mosquito with West Nile virus.

This is the story so far:

  • My next-door neighbour, Ann, died recently.
  • Within a short period of time after Ann’s death, her husband contracted with a real estate agent, put their house up for sale at $10k less than its appraised value (historically, the appraised value, set by our local (county) government, is less than market value), an incredibly low $80k.  Keep in mind that the house on the other side of us sold for $437,500 on 13th August 13 2010, but its appraised value that year was $309,800.
  • The real estate agency was Keller Williams.
  • The house sold in three days, according to another neighbour down the street.
  • The buyer, I discover, is also a real estate agent for Keller Williams, named Alice Battle.
  • Today, my wife and I paid a courtesy visit to meet our new neighbour.
  • A building contractor greeted us, told us Alice doesn’t live there but, instead, is having the place remodeled because Alice, who lives in the city, plans to use the house as a weekend retreat for her and her friends.
  • The building contractor said he wished Alice had been there [to justify her reasons for buying the house] but, and he didn’t want to speak for her, told us anyway that Alice “just fell in love with the house right away” and had to have it.

Well, who wouldn’t at that price?  Is it even ethical to buy from a “friend” working for the same real estate agency who low-balled the price of the house?

I’m collecting more information.  Having been a newspaper reporter, the investigative side of me wants to get to the bottom of this.

Questions I have to answer are:

  • Are there ethical implications here?
  • Is this a common practice in real estate?
  • Is this a violation of any laws?
  • Is this a “tip of the iceberg” moment that might reveal more about why the real estate business was such a disastrous financial bomb dropped in the middle of the global economy?
  • Are we setting ourselves up nationally for another real estate catastrophe?

I guess I need to consult my friends in the legal department to see how I should pursue this matter.  We might have a situation that is worth calling in the big dogs of the newspaper business and coordinating our investigations across the country.

I can’t wait to hear what Alice has to say for herself because she represents not only herself here but also Keller Williams and the real estate business in general, as well as potentially putting Huntsville in national news and Huntsville needs more newspaper exposure like UAH needs another Amy Bishop on their professorial staff.

I feel like a hound dog that’s found a strong scent and wants to tree a varmint.

More as it develops…