Sunday, May 26, 2013

An Apology to Robert Ehrling of New Vista Properties

In the news this week the talking heads and so-called “experts” are agreeing that a healthy real estate market has returned. It has apparently come to the media's attention that the good homes are now selling quickly while fixer-uppers and overpriced residences continue to populate the for sale market place. On average, homes are selling in about 45 days. 

So what is really happening? I would postulate that buyers—with the possible exception of younger first-time buyers--remember the prices we had reached only 5 or 6 years ago. Back then those prices seemed high but fair. After the real estate and economic melt down, to make a sale, everything had to be offered at a give-away price. But that was then—this is now. If we can spend $4 a gallon for gasoline, what’s wrong with a $300K+ house? We’ve heard these asking prices before, and while the days of “bargains” seem to be behind us, the new higher prices for homes seems to be OK. And as you will see as you read on, it is no crime to sell properties for more money than anyone else does.  If it were, half my listing customers would have to lower their asking prices or go to jail.

So this week (for those of you who regularly read this column) I had a call and an email from Robert Ehrling. Readers may recall that a few weeks back I wrote a two-part column on New Vista Properties and how they were the reason my wife and I bought a home in Englewood.  I went on about a trip they sponsored which brought us from our NH real estate office to see South Gulf Cove and a number of other properties they were offering in Charlotte County. Mr Ehrling is the president of New Vista Homes and New Vista Properties and was formerly with General Development. Company.

He contacted me looking for an apology which I willfully offer. But so you know what I am apologizing for, I offer the following from a Google search (these are not my words):

According to the New York Times, “General Development was considered a reputable housing development company until the mid-80's, when buyers discovered they could not sell their properties for anything near what they had paid. The Government accused the company of defrauding 10,000 home buyers, and taking advantage of potential out-of-state buyers, bringing them to Florida on free, heavily restricted tours led by an aggressive sales staff.

The company eventually pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy and agreed to set up a $100 million restitution plan.

In 1989 An appeals court reversed the convictions of four former executives of the General Development Corporation. They were jailed for two years after being convicted of cheating home buyers out of $117 million. The ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta came a year after the Federal panel ordered the four freed pending the appeal.

On appeal, the court ruled that buyers were free at any time to check out other Florida home prices, and therefore, were not defrauded.

“It is doubtful”, Judge J. L. Edmondson wrote in the ruling, "that a person of ordinary prudence, about to enter into an agreement to purchase a G.D.C. home in Florida, would rely on the company's own representations of the value of the houses. "Therefore," Judge Edmondson concluded, "a 'scheme' to defraud' within the meaning of the Federal statutes has not been proved."

In his email to me, Mr Ehrling wrote: “Since you took the liberty to refer to the "lead" in your local paper you were obviously captured by the "imprisonment" part. But you never wrote that (we) were found innocent. There was no crime. (We) have no criminal record.

“Hopefully after you give this some further thought, you will take down your article, print a retraction and an apology.”

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