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Code of Ethics Case Studies

Case #2-10: Use of State Revenue Stamps to Mislead

REALTOR® A, the listing broker, had shown a house to Buyer B on several occasions. It was an old house in a desirable location in which Buyer B had become interested for extensive modernization. It was listed at $140,000. Buyer B had offered $125,000, but the owner had held firm to his asking price. While negotiations were at this point, REALTOR® A received a call from the owner saying that because of a sudden death in the family a number of family plans were being rapidly changed, and if a signed offer was presented within 24 hours, the price of $125,000 would be accepted. REALTOR® A called on Buyer B, obtained a written offer, and closed the transaction.

Buyer B then continued his discussion with REALTOR® A concerning financing for the modernization of the house that he contemplated. In this connection, REALTOR® A advised him that state revenue stamps in the amount of $5.00 per thousand of the price paid for the house would have to be affixed to the deed when it was filed, and suggested that Buyer B spend an extra $75 for stamps to give the appearance of a $140,000 purchase price for the house. This, he pointed out, would be to his advantage in obtaining a liberal mortgage, should it be checked by the financing institution when Buyer B applied for a mortgage loan to finance his modernization program.

An official of a local mortgage company learned from Buyer B of this advice given by REALTOR® A, and made a formal complaint to the Board of REALTORS® that REALTOR® A had violated Article 2 of the Code by making this suggestion. He pointed out that mortgage finance institutions in the locality generally regarded the state revenue stamps as an indication of selling price.

At the hearing, REALTOR® A's defense was that he had not been a party to the naming of any false consideration in a document; that the deed in this case stated that the consideration was "ten dollars and other consideration"-a nominal consideration expressly permitted by the Code of Ethics; that the state revenue stamps are not required as a means of indicating prices paid for property, but as a means of deriving state revenue; that while a buyer may not lawfully place less in such revenue stamps on a deed than $5.00 per thousand in price paid, there was nothing illegal or unethical in placing a greater amount in stamps on the deed than the minimum required.

Based on your understanding of the Code of Ethics Article 2, what do you think the hearing panel concluded? Show Answer