JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Action News Jax investigation found the Florida real estate company, MV Realty, is giving quick cash to homeowners and locking them in to a 40-year commitment.
“SCHEME AND A SCAM”
It happened to Sheila Feliciano of Jacksonville.
“It was a sweet, fast talk, you know?” Feliciano said. “I got depressed. I felt like I was in prison.”
MV Realty gave Feliciano $650 to list her home if she ever sold it. A year later, she put her house up for sale with another company and MV Realty placed a lien on her title and sued her for $7,800. That’s twelve times the amount she received from them up front.
Feliciano didn’t realize the cash locked her into a 40-year contract.
“I would have to die and come back in order to serve that time of the contract to be free of it,” she said.
Her attorney is Robert Wilburt. He works with legal aid and has years of experience with questionable real estate practices.
“It’s a scheme and a scam,” Wilburt said.
He said it’s not just a bad deal; what MV Realty is doing should be illegal.
“They’re going after people who are unsophisticated and susceptible. They may have fallen on hard times, and they need money,” he said.
OUR INVESTIGATION FOUND
Action News Jax sorted through county deed websites and found at least 588 people in northeast Florida and southeast Georgia are locked into that same 40-year deal with MV Realty.
Contracted Homeowners by County:
St. Johns: 38
Glynn/Camden/Brantley, Ga.: 20
We also found 22 complaints filed with the Florida Attorney General’s Office against the company. Now, MV Realty is under a consumer protection investigation. While MV Realty is based in Delray Beach, Florida, it’s reach goes far beyond the state line. It operates in 33 states across the country.
Action News Jax teamed up with our sister stations in 7 other states and found there are people just like Feliciano all across the country. We found two other states’ Attorneys General are investigating MV Realty.
The company has also caught the attention of the National Consumer Law Center. They are looking into MV Realty’s practices.
A woman who did not want her name revealed or show her face on camera told us in a recorded interview what she experienced working for MV Realty.
“It was deceptive from the start,” she said.
Most of the work she did for the company was cold-calling people from a list mostly made up of the elderly, veterans and the poor.
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“They were getting their call list from places where people had inquired about refinancing or obtaining an original home loan and things like that,” she said.
She said the call scripts were high pressured and pushed people to talk to an agent and sign a deal. Studying to become a real estate agent herself, the woman quickly realized something wasn’t right.
“It didn’t sit right with me,” she said.
A traditional real estate company’s contracts average about 90 days.
MV Realty signs customers to 40 years.
Traditionally, an agent doesn’t get paid unless they sell the house.
But MV Realty gets 3% commission whether it’s a sale, short sale, foreclosure, or sold by owner.
In fact, if you list your house anywhere else, the company files a Lis pendens against the property that works like a lien so no matter what you do with your house, they are sure to get paid.
“This is your house,” Wilburt said. “The most basic necessity you have is shelter. I mean, they’re screwing with that.”
Feliciano said, “I want to be rid of the contract and rid of MV. Like I was like a bad nightmare I want to wake up from.”
MV REALTY’S RESPONSE
Our sister station reached out to MV Realty about these claims. They denied multiple requests for an on-camera interview. And since our requests, MV Realty updated disclosures online for its homeowners’ agreements.
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MV Realty responded in writing:
“We do enforce our agreements when homeowners violate their contracts. But we make sure that homeowners clearly understand the terms of the agreements before signing. Our licensed agents and brokers walk homeowners through the contracts. These realtors are bound by a professional code of ethics, and they have undergone a rigorous training program that covers every aspect of the contract and teaches them how to explain it in plain English to signatories. We also give the homeowners the option to rescind the agreement within three days of signing for any reason whatsoever.
“Each client is left a leave-behind one-page document with an over view of the important parts of the contract they have already signed, which I have attached, that states the 3 rescission period, the length of the contract, as well as contact information. They must sign the leave behind as well, acknowledging they understand the agreement they have made with MV Realty.
“Regarding the claims of the former MV Realty Employee:
- MVR baits customers with aggressive, high pressure cold calls
“We do not cold call. We only reach out to prospects who have opted-in to receive information from us.
- Telemarketers are required to make at least 450 outbound calls a day
“That is part of the job description and typical for a telemarketing role.
- MVR targets homeowner who are low income or behind on bills
“That is not true and totally unfounded. We only reach out to people who have opted in to hear from us, regardless of their income or financial status.
- Lists generated for cold calls include homeowners who’ve searched for loans
“Again, we do not make cold calls. We only contact homeowners who have opted-in to hear from us.
- MV Realty uses “spoofing” technology so out-of-state sales calls look like a local number
“This is standard technology used by telemarketers.”