Real estate agent must repay $600K | AspenTimes.com

Real estate agent must repay $600K

Joel Stonington

A seven-year legal battle came to an end Friday when the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a decision awarding $600,000 to local real estate agent Joshua Saslove.Saslove, owner of Joshua and Co., sued homeowners Nancy Oliphant and Adam Trombly after they sold a property that Saslove believed was entitled to list. In a unanimous 16-page decision, the Colorado Court of Appeals decided the written agreement between Saslove and the sellers was not a contract and did not amount to a legal document.As such, the appeals court overturned a decision by former Ninth District Judge T. Peter Craven in which Saslove was awarded a 6 percent commission on the $5.8 million sale. That commission plus attorneys fees and interest amounted to $621,891.66.The confusion began in 1999, when Trombly and Oliphant asked Saslove to sell a vacant Brush Creek lot. Saslove made a mistake in the contract he prepared for the sale, stating the lot had a water tap when it did not. The water tap was worth $25,000.Thus, Saslove agreed to contribute his $13,000 commission on the property, with the condition that he be allowed to list the next property they put on the market.A written agreement was drawn up and signed, though there was no specific “next property” and, the court of appeals decided, future terms were needed for the contract to be legal.According to Trombly, buyers literally came to his and Oliphant’s door with larger and larger offers until finally the $5.8 million offer came down the pike.”They gave us an offer we didn’t feel we could refuse, so we entered into a deal for the property,” Trombly said. “Josh freaked out because he said it should have been his listing. He said you promised you would give me your next listing.”The property, a 1-acre riverfront lot at 17 Shady Lane, is one of the choicest in Aspen. Trombly and Oliphant did not want to sell it; they wanted to build a house on the lot and move in, but Trombly was sick and the couple decided not to refuse the high offer.”Josh wanted the listing for that property,” said Trombly. “Everyone wanted that listing. I was approached frequently at the Caribou Club. It was one real estate agent after another.”With the sale of the property pending, Saslove went to Pitkin County and recorded what amounted to an “I owe you” on the lot by attaching the previous agreement to list with him. When the agreement did not stop the sale, he sued for the full 6 percent commission, what amounted to $348,000. “You ask a friend to help you with a property,” said Trombly, “he does help you, then makes a mistake and bootstraps that mistake onto a $340,000 commission on a property he didn’t help you sell.”Saslove refused to comment for this article. His company currently lists more than 10 properties over $15 million, including Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s “Hala Ranch” for $135 million, the Elk Mountain Lodge for $27.5 million and a Starwood estate for $30 million. At the beginning of October, Saslove told MSN that his office had closed on $184 million from 18 single-family transactions in 2006 alone. Joel Stonington’s e-mail is jstonington@aspentimes.com