SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Barry Cohen and his wife were positive the waterfront home on West Royal Flamingo Drive in Sarasota was perfect for them, and they were willing pay for it.
But when their offer of $500,000 over the $4.5 million asking price was snubbed, they were surprised, sending Cohen looking for answers from the owner.
“I went to the neighborhood. He was walking his dog and we talked,” Cohen said. “This was the house we loved.”
It did not take long for Cohen and owner Thomas Davenport to be suspicious of the deal put together by Coldwell Banker salesperson Roger Pettingell, who was the transaction broker for both Davenport and the winning bidder.
As they shared their stories, Cohen and Davenport concluded Cohen’s offer was the highest and best but was not presented that way by Pettingell.
“I have to say – outraged. Outraged by the behavior here,” Cohen said. “They had us over a barrel. They knew we wanted to be on the water on Bird Key.”
Cohen and Davenport are suing Pettingell and Coldwell Banker, alleging all the offers were not presented fairly and Pettingell “denigrated the other four offers, including the Cohen contract, stating they were inferior.”
Documents indicate the winning bid was $400,000 less than the one from Cohen who, like the winning bidder, waived the inspection period.
Pettingell “advocated” for the offer from the winning bidder, calling it the “cleanest,” according to the lawsuit
“At no time did Pettingell advise the Davenports that Cohen agreed to waive the inspection period in their original offer,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also claims Pettingell told the seller about the offers over the phone and did not present the written versions to Davenport.
Since Pettingell was the transaction broker for the winning bidder and the seller, he and Coldwell Banker collected the entire six percent commission of about $276,000.
Pettingell has not responded to requests for comment.
A defendants’ filing called the allegations “baseless.” Coldwell Banker spokesperson Roni Boyles said Pettingell “has earned a reputation for honesty and integrity.”
“Roger and Coldwell Banker Realty believe that there is no merit to the allegations against him,” Boyles said. “Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to comment further while the litigation is pending.”
Cohen said after he realized what happened, he complained to Coldwell Banker.
“But we end up referred back to Roger,” Cohen said. “No one seemed to care. What was very disappointing to us as we went through the process is there was no oversight.”
Under Florida law, the transaction broker does not have fiduciary responsibilities to the broker and seller, but is required to deal honestly and fairly with them and must present all offers.
Attorney and realtor Rob Goldman advises sellers to make sure they see everything in writing, especially during the current market that has involved so many multiple offer situations.
“Everything has to be presented to the seller. Nothing can be hidden from the seller,” Goldman said. “If I wonder whether I should disclose something or not, disclose it.”
Cohen, who ended up buying another multi-million-dollar Sarasota home through Pettingell, is seeking damages but says he also came forward to alert other sellers and buyers.
“There are a lot of people who can be taken advantage of at a time when it’s critical for them to be treated fairly and professionally,” Cohen said. “I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”