The call couldn’t have come at a better time for Beatrice Nwana.
“I needed the money,” she told me. It came out of the blue: “They contacted me. I don’t know how they got my phone number.”
Florida-based MV Realty offered Nwana $850 to sign a listing agreement saying that if she decides to sell her Arlington, Texas, house at any time in the next 40 years, she will use MV as her listing agent. She said she “thought it was a good idea,” adding that who lists her place is “not important. … They asked me if I was willing, and I needed the money.”
Judging from the 70-odd reviews filed with the Better Business Bureau, none of which have been verified, MV Realty has plenty of satisfied customers.
“The process from beginning to end was simple, well explained and professional,” according to one. “Would absolutely recommend to anyone.”
But others are not so pleased – not with the concept, not with the way it’s presented and not with the results. Some even say it’s fraud. But MV claims its practice is perfectly legal, and no court has yet said otherwise.
How Company Works
The pitch for this Homeowner Benefit Program is simple: Sign a binding 40-year listing contract and MV Realty will pay you a percentage of your home’s value, up to $5,000. In an email, a spokesperson for the company, which has been totally forthright in answering my numerous questions, said MV “assumes all the risk … with no certainty of getting any return on its investment.”
“We are trying to disrupt the real estate market by developing a long-term, and not transactional, relationship with our customers,” founder Amanda Zachman said in a statement. “Our focus is on investing in these relationships and becoming a trusted provider of critical real estate information, support and related resources.”
If you sign up with MV, you must list with the company when you decide to sell. The company then has six months to find a buyer. If it does, you owe a 6 percent commission, which is split with the buyer’s agent. If it fails, you are free to use another company or sell the place yourself – but if it remains unsold after 180 days, the listing reverts to MV.
The contract has a three-day right of rescission period, during which customers can change their minds. But after that, the contract runs with the land for 40 years – meaning your heirs are bound by the agreement if you pass away before the place is sold.
The company has more than 500 agents on staff as employees – as opposed to most other firms, where agents are independent contractors – and a “presence” in 33 states. Its agents work from home, though, so there are no offices to visit. MV hires must be licensed members of their local real estate associations and compliant with their continuing education requirements and codes of ethics.
MV claims its agents earn nearly twice the industry median “salary,” but most agents work on commission, not salary. And while some agents glowingly praise the company online, not all do.
On employment website Indeed, for example, a San Antonio agent said working for MV was the “worst work experience” in her 23 years in the business.
“If you get contacted by a recruiter for MV Realty, beware,” she warned. “They don’t care about your success; it is all about the numbers.”
“It’s as easy as can be, as long as you don’t mind feeling like you are setting very vulnerable people up for a very terrible contract,” griped another agent.
Concerns About Contracts
Near as I can tell, this program is sold largely over the phone. The company said it “only engages” with would-be clients who respond to its ads. But some BBB commenters say they don’t recall contacting the company.
Though documents are sometimes emailed, it appears that the first time any paperwork is delivered is when a notary shows up to gather the owner’s signature. If the prospects have questions, they’re out of luck: Not only do notaries have no knowledge of the program, but their only job is to confirm the identity of the people signing the documents.
“They [MV] do not explain to consumers the contract that they are signing,” said one notary – agents “try to bind them with [a] cash payment and tell them false information.”
Perhaps that’s why one Washington, D.C.-area notary hasn’t had a lot of success obtaining signatures. Of 12 assignments on behalf of MV Realty, 11 people balked, he said. Some were seeing the papers for the first time; others had been emailed the documents, but still had questions.
In no case was an MV agent there to respond to queries – yet the company claims its customers receive “five-star service.”
Some title companies have raised concerns about MV’s exclusive right-to-list contracts, which are recorded as liens against the property – a step that has some owners miffed. One homeowner, who received $1,500 from the company, said she wasn’t told about attaching a lien on her property and only found out about it when she applied for a home equity loan.
She said MV wanted $15,000 to terminate her six-month-old contract. “At least 10 emails” to the company went unanswered, she told the BBB. “My lender is requiring [the] MV Realty lien to be dissolved before we can get the proceeds. … Trying to work out some type of compromise seems impossible.”
Unfortunately, compromises don’t seem to be part of MV’s modus operandi. On numerous occasions, the company has gone to court to enforce its contracts. In Florida alone, I found eight cases in which MV was the plaintiff.
Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.