Hed Lines: Cyberspace ushers in new age of 'buyer beware' for real estate

Marie Hill, a real estate broker in Golden Valley, recalls real estate advertising in magazines during the 1960s touting the "Sacramento Valley of Arizona."

Hill described the marketing as "come-on advertising" featuring little down payments with "a few dollars every month."

Buyers then came out to see their land, only to be disappointed, according to Hill.

"You can't even get to it," Hill said.

"No roads, no nothing."

Zelda Wright, who manages the improvement districts in Golden Valley and throughout Mohave County for the county Public Works Department, produced a sample of an ad, circa 1962, offering 2.5 acres in Golden Valley for only $10 a month and a full price of $695.

The ad touts "Hunting - Fishing - Happy Living!" (in all capital letters).

The ad urges prospective buyers to "Imagine Your Profitable Tomorrow!" (also in all capital letters).

"And you can watch the value of your land rise ...

and rise! Then occupy it or sell it...."

Buyers then filled out a coupon and mailed it to a land company in Los Angeles.

That advertising approach is no longer legal in Arizona, Hill said.

"You must see what you buy, or there is a right of rescission (of the sale)," she said.

The above advertising approach in the print media may have given way, in the year 2000, to a new age of marketing real estate, site unseen.

A friend in Salinas, Calif., forwarded a copy of a posting on a popular online auction site of 2.5 acres up for grabs in Golden Valley.

The posting contains a description of the property being auctioned, a photo of the property, and real estate and regional maps.

Marketing Golden Valley as being 18 miles east of Laughlin, the posting states, "The property is accessible on county dirt roads and is flat and buildable, power is in the area, gas is by propane, this unit is in the water district, the first water bond has been paid.

there (sic) will be another bond which will be from $1500 to $2000 payable over 10 years.

the (sic) full price is $3,500 which your down payment will be deducted from, and $95 monthly at 7% simple interest.

I garantee (sic) there are no tax1s (sic) owed or liens on the property..."

The property description may be somewhat misleading, according to Wright, who examined the posting.

No landowners in the area have petitioned her for water improvements, she said.

"That means there is no current water service, except through commercial hauling or self-hauling," Wright said.

The closest standpipe, where water can be hauled, is three miles away, Wright said.

Hill and Ron Foote, president of the Kingman/Golden Valley Association of Realtors, also have serious questions about this cyber marketing, but did not characterize it as illegal.

If the seller lacks a real estate license, it "could be a 'buyer beware' situation," Hill said.

"In Arizona, an owner can sell their own property.

But if there is a third person involved, then that becomes a problem."

Foote viewed the photo of the property, studded with creosote bushes, and commented, "The headline I would put with this is, 'What1s wrong with this picture?' It's just one of those things.

Would you use an auction format to buy yourself an attorney or a doctor? Why would you then think that you do not need a professional to buy as complex an item as real estate?"

Foote said the online auction approach is no different from any other "for sale by owner."

However, he said, "This is what we as Realtors are concerned about that you as the buying and selling public have professional assistance in any of this type of real estate sale."

Real estate agents go through title companies to be sure there are no liens and encumbrances (restrictions) on the property and make sure that the buyer and seller or protected by title insurance that is forthcoming, Foote said.

Foote said he expects to see more and more marketing of real estate over the Internet in the above fashion.

The Internet has become the Wild West of unbridled - and largely unregulated - capitalism.

Buyer beware, Hill said.