Marti Ummel and her husband have been picketing Re/Max Associates in San Diego's north county because deception by a Re/Max real estate agent cost them about $150,000.
"Nobody's going to feel sorry for us," Marti Ummel said to Voice of San Diego's Kelly Bennett, referring to the Ummels' comfortable financial situation. "We can afford to get screwed. But there are other people who can't."
Marti Ummel makes an excellent point. Victims that are the most severely damaged by illegal actions rarely have the ability to do what the Ummels are doing. Most victims don't have the time, money, and emotional fortitude. They have to be at work to survive the financial damage done to them, and they are often emotionallly devastated by violations of law committed against them. Ironically, it is those who are less severely damaged who must challenge wrongdoers on behalf of all victims. To that end, the Ummels have filed suit against Re/Max and their La Costa-based real estate agent/mortgage broker Michael Little.
Kelly Bennett of Voice of San Diego reports:
"Marti Ummel said she asked Little to get an appraisal for at least a month before he finally requested it in July 2005. The Ummels' copy of Little's request for the appraisal shows double underlines and exclamation points next to the notes for the appraiser, John Contento: "Purchase price $1,200,000; Need yesterday -- sorry!"
"The Ummels claim this as evidence that Little influenced the appraisal so that they would feel more comfortable buying the home at that price. Another, almost identically sized, home on the same block had sold six weeks' previously for $1.095 million, but the Ummels say Little didn't tell them about it.
"Marti Ummel said the only way she found out about the recent, lower-priced, sale was by looking at a flier dropped on her doorstep by another Realtor a few weeks after they'd closed the sale.
"Roger Lopez, an appraiser who wasn't involved in the sale, said that requests for price-matching aren't uncommon for appraisers to receive. Because appraisers' businesses depend on being asked to do appraisals by mortgage brokers, they sometimes feel "undue pressure" from the mortgage brokers to match the price they're asking for."
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Ummel, for informing the public and putting some much-needed pressure on crooked real estate agents. It's clear that Michael Little feels he'll get away with his subterfuge. And quite likely he will. He'll have a huge industry behind him, and as Roger Lopez says, "There's a gray area."
Yes, there is always a gray area. We'll see if the legal system considers Michael Little's behavior to fall inside the gray area, or outside it. It looks like fraud to me.
Re/Max wants a judge to stop the picketing. They want their victims to remain unknown to the public. I'm not sure if they want to change the free-speech provisions of the Constitution, or if they think the judge in the Ummel