I won't say when or where this happened; suffice to say somewhere in New York. A buyer contacted me to show what appeared to be a short sale listing that had already been approved. The approval was for a previous buyer that walked away from the deal, so the window of time was narrow. It was a vacant condominium, and we saw it on a weeknight. We took a 2nd look that weekend, and it was there that the listing agent informed me that the "nuance" of the deal was that the "approved" price was actually $20,000 lower than the MLS list price.
Where was the other $20,000 going? The seller. The seller wanted to be greased $20,000 to sell his pre-foreclosure in a short sale. I have been involved with short sales where the seller has been forced to sell appliances and furniture just to raise the money to move. In some cases, the buyer of the home bought the chattle, and that was legitimate- nothing precludes people from selling their belongings. There wasn't anything in the apartment to buy to give the money a justification. Nothing. Not even a folding chair.
Aside from the obvious bank fraud I was confronted with, what was particularly disturbing was the brazen stupidity of the listing agent, who so unapologetically continued to lobby for the side deal. He didn't know me from Adam; I could have been a mole for the Department of State for all he knew.
I advised my buyer client to stay away. I have 4 children to feed and a company to run. I am not going to lose my livelihood over a brokerage fee. I'm not morally superior. I'm just not stupid.