Today’s the opening day in the case of Vern and Marty Ummel, Carlsbad residents who bought a house for $1.2 million in 2005 and claim they paid about $150,000 more than the recently sold homes in their Carlsbad neighborhood. That’s a detail Marty Ummel says their Realtor neglected to mention for the sake of his commission.

Vern and Marty Ummel picket Re/Max offices in February 2007.

For your Tuesday back-story enjoyment, I’ve compiled some links to the media attention this story has received: from us in February 2007, the New York Times, the Today show and yesterday’s Union-Tribune.

There’s a big misperception about this story that has been driving me nuts. This isn’t a case about Vern and Marty Ummel buying a house, expecting 20 percent appreciation based on the boom time glory stories, and then suing the first person they could think of to blame when the value of their house turned down.

Again, that’s not really the issue, though if the market had continued to rise, we probably wouldn’t see this case.

I think the issue boils down to the legal duties and responsibilities of a real estate agent. The Ummels say they trusted Mike Little, their Realtor, to tell them that a similar-sized house down the street had just sold six weeks earlier for $1.095 million. But a lot of real estate professionals say buyers are expected to do research, to know what they’re buying, to stand up to their Realtor even if he’s telling them — as the Ummels allege their agent did — that the house is a good buy. That’s why I, at least, am watching this case.


Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.