Real Estate Report

(Feb. 15, 2019) The Maryland General Assembly began its legislative session on Jan. 9, and the Maryland Realtors (the state’s Realtor association) have a top priority of educating elected officials about the real estate industry.

The following are three of the 2019 legislative priorities published by the Maryland Realtors:

Housing Opportunities: With increased student debt and other barriers, the percentage of first-time homebuyers has fallen to a nearly 30-year low.

The Maryland Realtors is committed to supporting policies that expand housing opportunities throughout the state and opposing policies that limit them. Realtors support tax changes to make home purchases more affordable, policies to encourage the creation of new homes and apartments, and regulatory changes to increase housing supply and lower building costs.

Escrow Money Written Agreement: Escrow money, sometimes referred to as “earnest money” is often provided by a homebuyer when entering into a contract for a home purchase.

Although escrow money is not required by law, it demonstrates a buyer’s commitment to purchase the property. These deposits once were held almost exclusively by real estate brokers but are now held by many different companies, including title companies, attorneys and public notaries.

While there is no legal prohibition against such companies holding earnest money deposits, these third party companies are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as real estate brokers, such as: how soon trust money must be deposited and how the money must be handled in cases of a dispute.

For this reason, the Maryland Realtors seeks changes to require any holder of escrow money to have a written agreement with the buyer and seller detailing how the money will be handled.

Client Confidentiality: Confidentiality is a key fiduciary duty of all real estate agents. This duty applies to different types of information that could undermine a client’s position if known by the other party.

In fact, the duty of confidentiality is so important, it lasts even after the agent-client relationship has terminated. However, this duty does not apply when an agent is being interviewed for hire by a potential client. Regularly, the potential client discloses information that would be considered confidential.

The Maryland Realtors recommends changes to clarify that an agent has a duty to protect confidential information learned during a meeting to a form an agency relationship, even if the agent is not hired.

Lauren Bunting is a licensed Associate Broker with Bunting Realty, Inc. in Berlin.

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