Months into the pandemic, Roy Brightwell received an email he thought might help him get back on his feet.
The 70-year-old Tarpon Springs resident has spent nearly three years battling foreclosure. Then, in March, a new coronavirus infection broke out and he was fired from his insurance salesman.
“It was hard to earn money for food,” he said.
So when a company called MV Realty offered to pay $879 on the spot, it seemed like a godsend. All he had to do was agree to have them list his home if he decided to sell it. Did.
Two years later, his home was foreclosed on and MV Realty could be able to raise about $9,000 from the sale.
Brightwell is one of countless homeowners who got into legal trouble with MV Realty after breaking their contract with them. Delray Beach real estate agents use quick cash to entice homeowners to sign restrictive contracts that make it difficult to transfer ownership to their homes. Without using MV Realty as an agent or paying hefty fees.
MV Realty is being investigated by the Florida Attorney General’s Office, but no action has been taken so far.
The company claims it details all terms and conditions before homeowners sign them and has no complaints from most of its clients. It will pay up to $5,000 for exclusive rights, said Rachel Antman, a company spokesperson.
“MV Realty is investing in its future business,” the company’s website says. “This way you get cash upfront and MV Realty has the opportunity to represent you in the future if you decide to sell. A win-win!”
But critics say homeowners often don’t realize that the bylaws are bound by a 40-year binding contract.
“The scale of the matter is enormous,” said Matthew Weidner, a St. Petersburg attorney representing a client sued by MV Realty. “This is a situation where regulators really need to step in and do something because it will block the legal record and affect people for decades to come.”
If the owner dies, the contract will be passed on to his heirs. If the homeowner listed the home to another agent or was forced to sell it at a foreclosure auction, MV Realty could still mortgage the home and collect his 3% of the property’s value. I can do it.
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MV Realty has filed lawsuits against at least 40 homeowners in Pinellas, Hillsboro, and Pasco counties since 2018. In most cases, the homeowner will pay a lien.
“It’s a very detailed contract and the devil is in the details,” Weidner said.
“We have not found anything (in the contract) that is clearly illegal,” he added. “I feel bad. I feel like people are being taken advantage of. But they signed a contract.”
Brightwell and her late partner Michaela moved into a four-bedroom house on Biarritz Circle in 2000. Born in England, Brightwell has traveled the world. Now that he has lost his home, he is unsure if he can afford to live.
Brightwell breached its contract with MV Realty when it put the home up for sale to another broker in December. This prompted MV Realty to file a lawsuit and take a mortgage on the house.
MV Realty’s Antman said he offered Brightwell another chance to go public, but he turned it down.
Up until that point, Brightwell said he had completely forgotten about the contract he signed. He only listed his house as a last-ditch effort to avoid foreclosure.He was able to find a cash buyer, but eventually the buyer found a lien off his MV Realty, so The transaction did not go through.
Brightwell hoped to make some money from the sale of the foreclosure. filed a motion asking the judge to The judge has not yet made a decision.
“They didn’t leave me a penny,” said Brightwell.
Kylie Mason, a spokeswoman for the Florida Attorney General’s Office, said her office had received 16 complaints about the company since 2020. Bright said the Tampa Bay Times reviewed the complaints. It turned out to be similar to what Wells posed.
In October 2019, a man knocked on Largo resident Katherine Ziems’ door and offered her $550 to sign up for the Homeowners Benefits program. Looking back, she said, “I should have known it was too good to be true.”
When she went to sell the house in February, she vaguely remembered signing a contract with MV Realty, but couldn’t find the paperwork, so she shrugged her shoulders. was sued by MV Realty after putting the house up for sale in
Antman said MV Realty called Ziems to remind him of the deal, which Ziems disputes. Rather than fight what seemed like a losing battle, he decided to pay $5,000 out of the sale to satisfy his lien.
Another client, Debra Harrell, said she tried to sell her house to MV Realty but ended up in trouble with the company.
In June 2020, she enrolled in the Homeowners Benefits Program and received $802 for the right to list a rental property she owns in Tarpon Springs. She contacted her MV Realty in the fall and they assigned her an agent.
Harrell said agents made no effort to help her. Eventually, Harrell found a cash buyer. She asked her listing agent to set up the show, but the agent never complied, she said.
Eager to close the deal, Harrell said he agreed to find another agent and draw up a contract on behalf of the buyer. Harrell said the sale documents included MV Realty as his listing agent, but the company sued for breach of the homeowners agreement.
Ultimately, the lawsuit was dismissed and MV Realty walked away with a 3% fee.
Harrell said the experience has led him to question whether MV Realty’s priority is to sell homes or make money off broken deals.
“No one reads the fine print. They know it,” she said. “It’s a really mean way of doing business.”
About 30,000 homeowners have enrolled in the Homeowners Benefits program since its launch in 2018, according to Antman. To date, MV Realty has sold 700 of his homes through this program.
According to Antman, the majority of homeowners who sell their homes through MV Realty (the Homeowners Benefit Program) are satisfied with MV Realty’s services, saying, “MV is highly rated by Zillow and the Better Business Bureau. It is clear from the fact that
Antman said MV takes each complaint seriously and is working with relevant agencies, including state attorneys general, to resolve them.
To avoid complaints, MV Realty is giving homeowners three days to clarify the terms of their homeowners benefit program and cancel their contracts, she said. She added that most homeowners who violate the contract simply forget they signed it.
Wes Shaw, a spokesperson for the National Association of Realtors, said the organization cannot comment on its members’ business models, but said, “Consumers should be well informed before signing a contract. I believe,” he added. Represent them in the home sales process. ”
He urged homeowners he believed had been wronged by the business Submit reports to the state attorney general’s office or other relevant agency.
Brightwell was initially given a one-month eviction deadline, but was able to extend the deadline until August.. 26. Until the last minute, he was busy packing up and looking for where to go. After his electricity was cut off, he knew his time was up.
“I have lived in this place for 22 and a half years,” he said. “It’s no fun having to hand over the keys this afternoon.”