How to Double End a Listing Without Listing the House

The process I am about to describe to you, how to double end a listing without listing the house, is not something your broker’s legal team will want you to read about. I am not promoting this particular system as much as sharing stories that happened to me 40 years ago when I first started selling real estate. Many of our activities back in the 1970s would have lawyers today running for the closest bottle of scotch.

Yup, today this would involve practicing risk management on overload. Legal liability up the wazoo. Yet, I’m gonna tell you anyway, because that’s just the kind of person I am. A troublemaker. With a capital T that rhymes with B and stands for bad influence.

You might not think of me as a bad influencer because I generally try to do good things, but let me say, soon as my junior year in high school ended, my probation officer (didn’t every kid have a probation officer back in the ’60s?) insisted I leave my group home in Wayzata and find other living arrangements. Because I was . . . you guessed it . . . a bad influence. I encouraged other kids to take control of their lives and question authority, and that was bad.

Back to this situation. So, the way an agent could double end a listing without listing the house is to first find sellers who want to sell but do not have an agent. Sometimes these sellers are called FSBOs, which stands for For Sale By Owner, pronounced FizzBo, or they could be a referral or some guy who walked into an open house and mentioned wanting to sell. I called them from the newspaper classifieds. You could find them today on Zillow. These are people without representation.

In the 1970s, when I obtained my real estate broker’s license and began selling, double ending a listing seemed like a good way to go. Today, not so much. Today I would say double ending a listing is asking for trouble and I do not work with buyers anymore. I represent sellers. But back then I didn’t know any better. Dual agency was also more common than it is now.

The reason this worked so well, to double end a listing without listing the house, was because some sellers were very resistant to listing. But they were not resistant to selling. Much like today, actually. I sat down at many a dining room table to tell sellers I was not there to list their house; I was there to buy it and assign the sale to one of my investors.

Unsecured promissory notes were used as a down payment, again, rife with legal problems today. I paid the sellers their asking price, too. Because I discovered we could make money at list price. We did not need to buy low and sell high. That is a fallacy. Even created my own purchase agreements in 3-part NCR so they appeared official. I knew enough from my years in escrow to know when to remove prorations from the sale agreement. Sort of the big print giveth and the little print taketh away.

The agreement I signed with the sellers was in my name or assignee. I often wrote the contracts to close in 7 days. This was very appealing to a seller. Full price and fast closing. Most of all, I performed. I transferred all my purchase contracts to investors. Which meant when I called them to say I found an investment property for them, it meant it was already in escrow.

There was no showing of homes. I showed one home. The home I just bought for them. If they didn’t want it, another investor would take it, but they almost always accepted the assignment without questioning. I was the professional, and they were just the guys with a bit of cash. There was a certain amount of respect for what I could do.

Not like today. Today many buyers think they know everything. After all, they watch HGTV.

What about a mortgage? There were no new mortgages. Interest rates were too high. Rates were 18% at one point. I bought the property subject to the existing financing. Often, the down payment was between 7% and 10%. If it was 10%, the seller would get the 3% difference, because 1% went to closing costs and 6% to commission. Just because I wasn’t listing the property did not mean I did not write a commission into the purchase contract.

Today, the commission, though, is not part of the contract.

I created my own form to transfer my interest in the purchase contract to the investor. It’s a wonder I wasn’t ever sued for practicing law without a license. No investors qualified to buy the home. No credit reports. No disclosures, no preapproval letters, no proof of funds.

In addition to taking title subject to the existing mortgage, sellers would receive, for example, a second trust deed for the balance of their interest. They didn’t want the trust deed, most wanted cash.

I had another group of investors who purchased trust deeds at a discount. On a straight note (with simple or compound interest accruing, no payments), the balloon payment was typically 3 to 5 years. I sold those at a 30% discount to the seller, pocketed half and gave a 15% discount to the investor. The investor got a great yield and everybody was happy.

If this hurts your head, well, it is fairly creative, and remember, this was from a time when an agent could do many things an agent cannot do today. If you could come up a plan, it was most likely executable as long as you weren’t breaking any laws, and we did not have laws like we do today.

The sellers knew what were doing. They knew the paper was created and sold in a second transaction, and there could be liability with the subject-to due to alienation clauses, which could result in an acceleration clause. Sellers did not mind that I was paid to sell their trust deed and I received a standard real estate commission for double ending the sale.

Because, like I said earlier, they did not want to list their house.

But I look at that type of transaction today, which seemed so normal and ordinary during the creative financing years, and I can’t hardly believe it myself. Kids, don’t try this without legal advice. Some things from the past belong in the past.

Today, everything I do is to protect my seller’s interests. And I’m a lot wiser.

Elizabeth Weintraub

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