Dusting off Aunt Rose

Sure libertarians are going to go ballistic. But consider: everyone who had a friend in real estate now has three friends and one distant relative in the business. Which one to use? The consumer sorely needs another law. Our legislators must approve as an urgency measure the Family & Friends Pecking-Order Relieved Consumer Act.

Let's set the scenario. You've found a place on your own. So you don't really need an agent, right? What's left to do? A form here, form there. That's it. But you do need a "distant relative" or a "friend" to collect the commission, keep a modest bit of it, and refund the lion's share to you. That is where Aunt Rose comes in. Her license is still in its frame, albeit a bit dusty.

But not everyone has an Aunt Rose. That is where new legislation would prove invaluable.

FIRST: we must define who qualifies as a "distant relative". Using the Probate Code as a model, if one were to go to Heaven without a Will the statutory order of succession, depending on your State of residence, might be something like spouse, children, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. So Aunt Rose clearly qualifies. But what about Gomer, third cousin on your spouse's side? Where to draw the line.

A more accurate method of defining "distant relative" is through DNA testing. This could be delicately handled by inserting a clause in the standard listing or buyer broker agreement requiring your agent to take a DNA test prior to close of escrow, and providing that the agency relationship shall be null and void if the statistical probability of your agent being a "distant relative" is less than 1 in 300,000.

Those few who have no relatives in real estate must use a "friend".

So, SECOND, we must define who qualifies as a "friend". This task is made difficult by the fact that Brutus was a friend of Julius Caesar. Therefore, the new law would include a presumption that someone who would stab you in the back, or who would pummel you on the Jerry Springer show does not qualify as a "friend". At trial that presumption could be rebutted by proving that the licensee does not own a knife or has an IQ above 80.

Assuming that the licensee passes this threshold test, he or she must still meet the minimum passing-acquaintance standard:

"Notwithstanding any provision of the Business and Professions Code to the contrary, any licensee providing services to a consumer on the basis of 'friendship' must satisfy the following:
1) Must know the consumer's first name;
2) Must know whether the consumer has children;
3) Must be able to recognize the consumer in a crowded room; and,
4) Must have broken bread with the consumer."
Note that the new law would require that all four conditions be satisfied. So it would not constitute full compliance to recognize a consumer at a crowded dinner party and to say: "Hey there, ah, how's your three kids?" The use of the word "there" indicates that the licensee does not remember, or perhaps never knew, the first name of the consumer.

As to "breaking bread", the statutory order of preference shall be as follows, in descending order of importance:

"4) Must have broken bread with the consumer. This is defined as follows:
a) Shared dinner at a home.
b) Shared lunch at a picnic.
c) Shared beer with a Forty Niner fan.
d) Shared beer at a sports bar."
This "breaking bread" aspect of the new legislation has its roots in ancient custom. Nevertheless it is the most controversial provision of the new Act. Many trade associations argue that it would be prohibitively expensive for licensees to eat with every prospective seller and buyer. Currently the Joint House-Senate Committee is attempting to work out a compromise based on an inexpensive item like ready-to-eat tofu.

Finally, the REAL MONEY Exception:

"It is the legislative intent that the Family & Friends Pecking-Order Relieved Consumer Act shall not extend to selection of dentists, used car dealers, auto mechanics, certified public accountants, gardeners, contractors, interior decorators, financial planners, webmasters or personal trainers, where the value of the service or product entails some REAL money, say $225.00 or more."

Copyright ©1996 through current year, Leopold A Rodriguez
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