TWO court rulings have each confirmed that real estate agents should serve a minimum of two years in prison for defrauding both buyers and sellers.
The punishment meted out to these professionals relates to the dishonest -albeit not common- habit of structuring their commission payment on the difference between what the buyer pays and what the seller receives…without telling either party what these figures were.
The Courts, on finding the estate agents guilty on counts of criminal fraud, concluded the following:
• Both buyer and seller were unaware of the real terms of the deal, having the estate agent effectively obtained the consent of both parties on different prices to those reciprocally agreed with either party, causing loss to both.
• The dual agreements are not a reflection of the real facts, the price for the buyer and the vendor are different and the ‘agreed commission’ is not real, as it was jacked up.
• The ‘buyer’s price’ was not the lowest he could get away with and the ‘seller’s price’ was not the highest the property could achieve, owing to an artificial and fabricated deal.
• The Court refutes the defence allegation that the real estate agent bought and then sold the property, at a profit, on grounds that it is improper conduct for real estate brokers to act in such manner, in addition to concealing the true nature of the deal to its customers.
• The Court does not accept that both buyer and seller were satisfied at the time with the terms of the agreed transaction: they probably were as they did not know otherwise, owing to the disinformation and deception devised by the agent.
• There is an aggravating circumstance in that the real estate agent, operating via an establishment opened to the public, added further credibility to their actions and facilitated the removal of objections by buyer and seller.
Similar behaviours to those described are known to have happened in the Costa del Sol but the likelihood of them resurfacing, considering that approximately 95% of all transactions included two real estate agents, is mostly residual.