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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Couple questions ethics of agents, after unknowingly buying home near Nashua’s Broad Street Parkway

NASHUA – When Thomas Dyer walked into the Verani Realty office in Nashua last fall to sign a purchase agreement with his wife, Dyer was looking forward to more than just becoming a first-time homeowner.

The Iraq War veteran was preparing to start a new chapter in his life with his spouse, Barbara Grealish Dyer, and their children. ...

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NASHUA – When Thomas Dyer walked into the Verani Realty office in Nashua last fall to sign a purchase agreement with his wife, Dyer was looking forward to more than just becoming a first-time homeowner.

The Iraq War veteran was preparing to start a new chapter in his life with his spouse, Barbara Grealish Dyer, and their children.

They looked for a nice property in a quiet area, and when they found the home at 36 Prescott St. in Nashua with blue shutters, a backyard and a porch in the front, they thought they had found it.

The Dyers purchased the home Aug. 16, never expecting that in a few months, the neighborhood was about to change dramatically.

Come November, heavy machinery began to arrive. The wood-frame bridge just beyond their backyard disappeared, and the quiet street was engulfed in construction activity.

Although they didn’t realize it at the time, the Dyers had purchased a home only a few hundred feet from the future site of Nashua’s Broad Street Parkway.

The massive infrastructure project, expected to cost more than $60 million, has been in the works for decades. But the Dyers – who previously lived in Massachusetts – didn’t have any forewarning that it was on the way.

The project is now in full swing, disrupting traffic in the area, rumbling the foundation of their home and likely impacting its value.

Now, Dyer is questioning why the real estate professionals who represented him and the previous owners of the home failed to mention the Broad Street Parkway before he handed over the down payment.

“I don’t understand,” he said Thursday, gazing at the yellow construction vehicle parked behind his fence. “I mean, if I was a real estate broker, I would tell somebody that 200 feet behind their house, they’re going to build a $65 million project.”

Dyer and his family relocated to Nashua from a small apartment in Dorchester, Mass., where they lived while Dyer was earning his business degree from Boston College.

Dyer used his benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to help pay for classes at the school, working as a construction laborer at the same time to supplement his income.

Dyer previously served with the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Brigade Combat Team, based out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

While he was deployed to Iraq, Dyer used two weeks of leave time to travel to Ireland with a friend. It was there that he met his future wife, Barbara, and her daughter from a previous relationship.

Tom and Barbara wed, and when he was discharged from active duty in 2011, the couple moved first to North Carolina, then to his home state of Connecticut before resettling in the Boston area.

The couple lived in two different apartments in Dorchester, raising Tom Dyer’s stepdaughter, who is now 6, and having a second child together, who is now 1.

They started their house hunt last year after Dyer earned his MBA from Boston College in May 2013 and secured a job at Raytheon.

Dyer received assistance during the process from the United Services Automobile Association, a financial services company that assists military families.

Dyer said USAA connected him with Thomas Van Horn, a sales associate at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Amherst, who acted as the couple’s buying agent.

Dyer said he and his wife looked at about 10 properties before finding the 2,800-square-foot, four-bedroom home they purchased in Nashua through a real estate listing online.

They viewed the home on a Friday, fell in love with it and made an offer three days later, settling on a selling price of roughly $297,000.

Dyer said they had minimal interaction with the couple selling the property. Most of the sales information came from Bryan Wheeler, an associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway Verani Realty in Nashua, he said.

Wheeler was the listing agent for the property, representing the couple who previously owned it.

Dyer said he researched crime statistics and read about nearby schools but didn’t think to ask whether a road building project was in the works. He expected that information to be supplied by Van Horn and Wheeler.

“It is our strong belief and expectation that any competent, ethical, and professional real estate agent would keep themselves abreast of a project of this magnitude, its potential impact on the local community, and disclose the wealth of information publicly available associated with the Broad Street Parkway to a non-New Hampshire resident, potential buyer of a house 200 feet away from the project’s path,” he wrote recently.

For Barbara Dyer, taking up residence beside the construction project has been a nightmare. Activity begins around 7 a.m. each morning and continues past 5 p.m., she said, shaking the house, turning off the television and occasionally shaking objects off of the walls. It’s gotten so bad that on some days she has to leave the house, she said.

“It’s going to happen either way, but it’s just the dishonesty that was done to us that makes us more angry,” she said. “You know what I mean? We’re first-time home buyers, and we were a young family looking for a nice home in a quiet area, and I just feel that we were taken advantage of.”

The Dyers are now considering filing a complaint with the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission, the five-member body that enforces state laws pertaining to real estate work.

Real estate licensees are required to make certain disclosures about a property before a sale takes place, such as information about the water supply and the sewer system.

Administrative rules also require them to disclose any “material physical, regulatory, mechanical or on-site environmental condition affecting the subject property of which the licensee has actual knowledge.”

Beth Edes, executive director for New Hampshire Real Estate Commission, declined to comment on whether the existence of a major road project near a sale property would fall under those categories. Edes said circumstances are reviewed by commissioners on a case-by-case basis when complaints are received.

Neither Van Horn nor Wheeler has received disciplinary action of any kind from the New Hampshire Real Estate Commission in the past.

Reached by phone last week, Wheeler referred all questions about the Prescott Street property to Tina Hagen, managing broker of the Verani Realty office in Nashua. Hagen could not be reached for comment.

Van Horn wrote in an email that he had no knowledge of the plan for the Broad Street Parkway before Dyer purchased his home.

“I was not aware of a plan for the construction project that started after Mr. Dyer moved into his new property, and if I had known at any point prior to the closing, I certainly would have made him aware of it,” he wrote. “I hold myself to the highest ethical standards and believe that I acted with complete ethical integrity in my dealings with Mr. Dyer.”

Regardless, the Dyers now feel stuck in a property they probably wouldn’t have purchased if they knew about the Broad Street Parkway.

Tom Dyer said he loves the home, but feels certain the value has diminished. He hopes conditions will improve once the parkway opens, but fears increased traffic will be a hazard for his children.

After paying a commission in the range of 2.5 percent on the home sale, Dyer said he feels it was a mistake to place his trust in the real estate professionals with whom he worked.

“They’re paid money to represent you,” he said. “They’re paid money to disclose pertinent facts related to the house that you’re buying.”

Jim Haddadin can be reached 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).