MALDEN - Bill Gillespie put a beam in himself to hold up the second floor of his home in Malden. It was supposed to be temporary until a contractor could start the much-needed renovation. All that is now on hold after the bank giving Gillespie the financing for the project ran into a roadblock.
Gillespie says he was shocked when the bank said he had a lien on his property.
"I have no liens on this house," he told WBZ-TV's I-Team.
But he does.
Gillespie signed what is called a Homeowner Benefit Agreement with MV Realty of Massachusetts. The Marine veteran says MV offered him $2,000 for the right to list his home for sale. Even though Gillespie had no plans to sell, he thought it was a good deal and an easy way to get $2,000.
What Gillespie didn't know was that the deal is a 40-year agreement that gives MV Realty a mortgage lien on his property and required Gillespie to pay them a percentage of the purchase price or a commission when the house is sold.
"I'm 67 years old I'm not gonna be here in 40 years," Gillespie said.
The I-Team found Gillespie afterof Crystal Doe's Rockland home.
Holding back tears Crystal said, "I am going to start to cry, sorry. Nobody told me 40 years, nobody told me lien on the property."
Doe told the I-Team she didn't know she would have to pay MV a commission and used another real estate agent to sell her home. It cost her thousands of dollars.
"It's devastating. It's absolutely devastating," she told WBZ.
The I-Team wanted to know how many other property owners signed agreements with MV Realty, so we spent weeks digging through public records and knocking on doors.
A homeowner in Taunton said he didn't know part of the agreement included a mortgage on his home. Several others told the same story - none of them remembered anyone telling them the agreement would last four decades.
"I think this business model raises a ton of red flags in terms of unfair and deceptive practices," Sarah Mancini, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, told WBZ.
She said MV Realty agreements have raised concerns in other states, including Georgia and Florida.
Florida is where MV Realty has its headquarters and where founder Amanda Zachman lives. Zachman is a Realtor and was a cast member on the CBS reality show "Big Brother" in 2013.
The I-Team reached out to MV Realty, which said in a statement:
"MV Realty is a residential real estate brokerage and proptech firm dedicated to meeting the needs of the modern agent, home buyer and home seller. Our firm has a presence in 33 states, a roster of over 500 highly experienced agents, proprietary technology and a suite of tools to support our agents. We also have a unique consumer offering - a Homeowner Benefit Program (HBP), which supports long-term relationships between homeowners and agents.
"The HBP offers homeowners a cash incentive of up to $5,000 - a percentage of the estimated value of their home - in exchange for an up to 40-year agreement to use MV Realty as their listing agent. The homeowners can obtain the money immediately and keep the money whether or not the home is sold during the period of time that the agreement is in effect. We make the conditions of the HBP agreements clear before homeowners sign them, and also give homeowners three days to rescind the agreements for any reason whatsoever.
"The HPB is offered only by licensed agents in the states in which we do business - including Massachusetts - and they are trained to properly explain the HBP and make its terms clear to homeowners.
If and when a homeowner chooses to sell their home, our agents work hard during the normal six-month listing period to help them sell their home for the best possible price. If we cannot sell their home during the six months, the homeowner has four months to sell their home with another agent at the same price, and if successful, not pay anything to MV. Since the initial rollout of the program, over 25,000 homeowners have received cash payments, in excess of $20 million, and we have helped nearly 700 homeowners to successfully market and sell their properties."
The homeowners the I-Team talked to admitted they accepted money from MV, but none said they understood what they were giving up. One man said he felt hurt and scammed.
"It's been a tough couple of years. To have you people dangle money like that without actually telling us what is going to be happening, it just doesn't seem right," Gillespie said.
The Attorney General's Office said it has received several complaints about the company and that MV Realty and its business practices are on their radar.
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