On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, L-2245-02.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: S.L. Reisner, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 28, 2006
Before Judges Collester, Lisa and S.L. Reisner.
"Location, location, location."
We begin this opinion with the real estate profession's well-known sales pitch, because it informs our conclusion that a realtor's misrepresentation about the location of a house can constitute a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act.
These are the facts, as drawn from the evidence submitted on defendant's summary judgment motion. The Township of Montville, Morris County, has three distinct sections, Montville, Towaco, and Pine Brook. Plaintiffs, Theodore and Frances Vagias, wanted to buy a house in the Montville section of the Township, because they perceived that it was more prestigious than the other sections, had higher property values, and had a particularly good elementary school to which they wanted to send their son. They told their real estate agent, Gabrielle Dingle of Weichert Co., that they wanted to purchase a house in the Montville section, as opposed to either of the other two sections of the Township.
After seeing an advertisement for newly-built homes in a development called "Woodmont Court at Montville," plaintiffs and their realtor met with the builder and looked at a house in the Woodmont development. During their conversation with the builder, he assured plaintiffs that the house was in the Montville section of the Township. Dingle, who was present at the time, also said that the house was in "Montville." When Mrs. Vagias expressed some concern about the fact that the house was located near power lines and near Route 287, Dingle told her:
Fran, I think this is it. It's a beautiful house. It's in Montville. Don't worry about . . . the power lines and 287. Montville, you know, you want a new house. . . .
She said, [t]his is a great house in Montville.
Plaintiffs paid $743,435.38 for the house, based on the statements by the builder and Dingle that the house was located in Montville. The HUD Uniform Settlement Statement also recited that the house was in "Montville."
Shortly after they moved in, however, plaintiffs learned that the house was not in the Montville section but rather was in the Towaco section of the Township. They produced an expert report attesting that the sale value of the house was lower because it was located in Towaco rather than Montville. Further, because the house was located in Towaco, they were unable to send their son to the highly-rated elementary school in Montville. Additionally, their expectations were disappointed, in that they ...