Seller beware: No background check on buyer

  • Article by: JAMES ELI SHIFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2009 - 12:17 AM

A Carver couple's moving plan took a rough detour when the buyer's down payment bounced.

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Michelle and Michael Rishavy had quit their jobs and were ready to move to Florida after signing a deal to sell their home. But the deal fell through when the buyer’s check bounced, leaving them in limbo.

Photo: Mckenna Ewen, Star Tribune

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In early June, Michael and Michelle Rishavy thought everything had fallen into place for their new life in sunny Florida. With a signed deal to sell their upscale home in Carver, the couple quit their jobs, stacked some of their possessions in the garage and jammed the rest in a trailer.

Then the $10,000 down-payment check from the buyer bounced.

The Rishavys suddenly found themselves in limbo, unable to get their old jobs back, not knowing whether to unpack, drop the price on their house or try to reclaim their snow shovels. They say the real estate agent who represented the buyer could have prevented the ordeal with a simple background check, which would have revealed the buyer had no financing and a bogus corporate affiliation.

"I wouldn't wish this on anybody," said Michael Rishavy, who estimated the deal cost at least $20,000 in lost income for the couple. "This has been what you would call an absolute nightmare."

Gloria Kubes Flicek of Kubes Realty, which represented the buyer in the failed transaction, declined to speak in detail about what happened. But she defended the actions of her agents, saying in an e-mail, "We feel victimized as well."

When the Rishavys built their home six years ago on Mt. Carmel Road, amid steep woods and a rushing creek, they figured they would retire there. But their children and grandchildren settled in north Florida, and this spring, Michael, a 50-year-old self-employed painting contractor, and Michelle, a 49-year-old elementary school technology associate, decided it was time to follow them.

In May, a month after the Rishavys put their home up for sale, a buyer emerged with a tempting offer. His name was Adam Boroughs, and he told his agents with Kubes Realty he would pay the full asking price of $599,000, but buy the house through his company, NetBryce LLC. To bolster his credentials, he offered a letter from a Florida financial institution claiming NetBryce had a $1.5 million line of credit.

Boroughs wanted to move fast. The Rishavys agreed to a June 12 closing, just 17 days after the purchase agreement was signed. Boroughs wasn't as quick at turning over the $10,000 deposit or proving he had the rest of the money available at a local bank. Nor did he seem eager to visit or inspect the property. At the urging of their agent, the Rishavys made their offer on a Florida home contingent on selling their Minnesota property.

On May 31, the deal moved forward when Boroughs handed over a $10,000 check. The next day, Michelle Rishavy gave notice that she would quit her job with the Eastern Carver schools, a position she held for 12 years. They emptied their house into boxes and trailers.

The deal fell apart June 4, when the check bounced. Michelle Rishavy said it was already too late to get her job and benefits back.

Officials at Edina Realty, which represented the Rishavys, said they weren't surprised by the collapse of the deal. Spokeswoman Maria Verven said the family's agent, Catherine Seck, continuously raised questions about the buyer's behavior and warned that the transaction was shaky.

But Verven said agents from Kubes Realty reassured Seck that Boroughs could be trusted, that "they knew him well, worked with him for a while, and have closed with his Florida funds before." None of that, Verven noted, turned out to be true.

Flicek denied such conversations took place, but she wouldn't elaborate.

"We took all steps possible with the knowledge we had to move forward in good faith in this transaction," Flicek said. "We have no motivation to have buyers enter into purchase agreements and not follow through."

Chris Galler of the Minnesota Association of Realtors said there is no law that requires agents to get background on potential buyers, but he said it is obviously in their financial interest to do so. When transactions involve unfamiliar out-of-state lenders, Realtors typically seek their clients' permission to confirm their financing, Galler said.

The credit letter used in the Carver transaction featured the name and address of Anthony Diaz, a former business associate of Borough's from Cocoa, Fla. But Diaz, who owns a construction company, is wrongly identified as a banking officer with a credit union that doesn't appear to exist. In an interview, Diaz said NetBryce is his company, and that Boroughs has not been affiliated with the firm since April.

Boroughs, who most recently lived in Chaska, did not respond to several calls and e-mails for comment.

The week his $10,000 check bounced, Boroughs' landlord filed a lawsuit to evict him from his Chaska apartment. It was Boroughs' fourth eviction suit in a year. In September, Boroughs pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor tax and theft by swindle charges in Carver County in connection with import-export ventures.

The Rishavys, who were forced to put two recent house payments on their credit card, are still smarting from the experience. They sold their house on Tuesday for $565,000 and packed for their three-day trip to Florida. They plan to join their son's commercial painting business.

Michael Rishavy said he is relieved to put the transaction behind him, but he still can't understand how he and his wife were ever put in this position.

"Kubes Realty did not do their job finding out: Do these people actually have money?" Rishavy said. "The only thing I can think of, they were just so excited that they were going to make a quick buck. It really bothers me."

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