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Originally published Friday, May 13, 2011 at 12:34 PM

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Decision to yank Hellickson's real-estate license upheld

An administrative-law judge has upheld the state's decision to revoke the real-estate license of Pierce County broker Michael Hellickson, agreeing that he engaged in dishonest practices that took advantage of struggling homeowners.

Seattle Times business reporter

quotes Hellickson's and their company have been ripping off people for many years. It is... Read more
quotes I almost bought a Hellickson-represented short sale in 2007. We had a signed purchase ... Read more
quotes As a homeowner who was run over by the Hellickson train, I applaud the State for requir... Read more

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An administrative-law judge has upheld the state's decision to revoke the real-estate license of Pierce County broker Michael Hellickson, agreeing that he engaged in dishonest practices that took advantage of struggling homeowners.

If Judge Terry Schuh's ruling sticks, Hellickson — touted on national television as an expert on distressed property sales — would be out of the real-estate business for at least 10 years.

In a 53-page ruling Thursday, Schuh also upheld the Department of Licensing's revocations of the licenses of Hellickson's wife, Tara, and their Bonney Lake firm, Hellickson.com.

The firm specializes in "short sales" for less than the seller owes on the property, and has represented sellers throughout the state.

The licensing department moved to pull the Hellicksons' licenses in September after a 17-month investigation prompted by more than two dozen complaints.

The agency took the unusual step of suspending their licenses immediately, before a formal hearing, because the severity of the charges. But the Hellicksons appealed, and in October a superior-court judge reinstated their licenses temporarily pending the hearing.

A licensing-department spokeswoman said the agency is pleased with Schuh's ruling. The Hellicksons' lawyer, Douglas Tingvall, was not immediately available for comment.

The Hellicksons have 20 days to ask Schuh to change his ruling before the revocations take effect. If that's unsuccessful, they can appeal in court.

Schuh upheld six of the 10 violations with which the Department of Licensing charged Michael and Tara Hellickson, and five of 10 charges filed against their firm.

But the affirmed violations "were repeated and ongoing," the judge wrote, and three were serious enough on their own to warrant license revocations.

Schuh found that the Hellicksons had:

• Misrepresented to sellers that the Hellicksons would buy properties listed with their firms if the homes didn't sell within 30 days.

"The purpose of this advertising was to generate leads," Schuh wrote. "The Hellickson team had no intention of buying homes at anything close to market price."

• Listed homes at prices below what the seller was willing to accept to generate multiple lowball offers.

"The implication is that [the Hellicksons] were more interested in generating offers than they were in realistic pricing," Schuh wrote.

• Failed to provide copies of executed listing agreements to clients.

• Engaged in "negligent and dilatory communications" with homeowners. Schuh labeled the Hellickson office "disorganized and inefficient."

• Added language without clients' knowledge to proposed sale agreements steering prospective buyers to specific lenders.

• Engaged in false advertising, including claims the firm was the No. 1 agent in Oregon and Hawaii — states in which the Hellicksons weren't licensed.

Before the licensing department moved against him, Michael Hellickson had appeared on CNBC, Fox Business News and other broadcast outlets to discuss distressed real estate.

He also heads Club Wealth Coaching, which holds training events for agents around the country. Its website says Hellickson is "considered by most to be the No. 1 short-sale expert in the world," and advertises upcoming Web seminars later this month and in early June.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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