Do I have to be a broker to approach a seller about buying their promissory note?
A finder's fee is a fee paid to someone who acts as an intermediary for another party in a transaction. Finder's fees may be offered in a variety of situations. For example, an employer may pay a finder's fee to a recruitment agency upon hiring a new employee referred by that agency. A finder's fee may be paid regardless of whether a transaction is ultimately consumated.
In a real estate context, a finder's fee may be paid for locating property, obtaining mortgage financing. or referring sellers or buyers. A finder's fee is money paid to a person for finding someone interested in selling or buying property. To conduct any negotiations of sale terms, the finder may be required to be a licensed broker or he violates the law. However, state laws, which vary by state, may also provide an exemption for certain individuals, allowing them to be compensated without the necessity of licensure. For example, one state's law allows an exemption for either a property management firm or an owner of an apartment complex to pay a finder’s fee or referral of up to $50 to a current tenant for referring a new tenant. The fee can be in the form of cash, a rental reduction or some other thing of value. The party claiming compensation under this exemption is not allowed to advertise for prospective tenants.
In a corporate context, a company seeking a merger or acquisition may pay a finder's fee to a person who locates a prospective company for the transaction desired. It may be in the form of a performance-based commission, where the finder gets paid upon closing of a sale. Usually the fees are paid by the seller, but in some cases the buyer pays the commission.
The answer depends on the type of business transaction involved and the states involved. Certain professions, such as real estate brokers, are required to be licensed. Assisting in financing a transaction may be considered a licensed practice. Licensing and applicable requirements vary by profession and state. I suggest calling the local professional licensing board.
The following are FL statutes related to real estate brokers:
(1) As used in this part:
(a) "Broker" means a person who, for another, and for a compensation or valuable consideration directly or indirectly paid or promised, expressly or impliedly, or with an intent to collect or receive a compensation or valuable consideration therefor, appraises, auctions, sells, exchanges, buys, rents, or offers, attempts or agrees to appraise, auction, or negotiate the sale, exchange, purchase, or rental of business enterprises or business opportunities or any real property or any interest in or concerning the same, including mineral rights or leases, or who advertises or holds out to the public by any oral or printed solicitation or representation that she or he is engaged in the business of appraising, auctioning, buying, selling, exchanging, leasing, or renting business enterprises or business opportunities or real property of others or interests therein, including mineral rights, or who takes any part in the procuring of sellers, purchasers, lessors, or lessees of business enterprises or business opportunities or the real property of another, or leases, or interest therein, including mineral rights, or who directs or assists in the procuring of prospects or in the negotiation or closing of any transaction which does, or is calculated to, result in a sale, exchange, or leasing thereof, and who receives, expects, or is promised any compensation or valuable consideration, directly or indirectly therefor; and all persons who advertise rental property information or lists. A broker renders a professional service and is a professional within the meaning of s. 95.11(4)(a). Where the term "appraise" or "appraising" appears in the definition of the term "broker," it specifically excludes those appraisal services which must be performed only by a state-licensed or state-certified appraiser, and those appraisal services which may be performed by a registered trainee appraiser as defined in part II. The term "broker" also includes any person who is a general partner, officer, or director of a partnership or corporation which acts as a broker. The term "broker" also includes any person or entity who undertakes to list or sell one or more timeshare periods per year in one or more timeshare plans on behalf of any number of persons, except as provided in ss. 475.011 and 721.20.
(b) "Broker associate" means a person who is qualified to be issued a license as a broker but who operates as a sales associate in the employ of another.
(c) "Commission" means the Florida Real Estate Commission.
(d) "Customer" means a member of the public who is or may be a buyer or seller of real property and may or may not be represented by a real estate licensee in an authorized brokerage relationship.
(e) "Department" means the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
(f) "Fiduciary" means a broker in a relationship of trust and confidence between that broker as agent and the seller or buyer as principal. The duties of the broker as a fiduciary are loyalty, confidentiality, obedience, full disclosure, and accounting and the duty to use skill, care, and diligence.
(g) "Involuntarily inactive status" means the licensure status that results when a license is not renewed at the end of the license period prescribed by the department.
(h) "Principal" means the party with whom a real estate licensee has entered into a single agent relationship.
(i) "Real property" or "real estate" means any interest or estate in land and any interest in business enterprises or business opportunities, including any assignment, leasehold, subleasehold, or mineral right; however, the term does not include any cemetery lot or right of burial in any cemetery; nor does the term include the renting of a mobile home lot or recreational vehicle lot in a mobile home park or travel park.
(j) "Sales associate" means a person who performs any act specified in the definition of "broker," but who performs such act under the direction, control, or management of another person. A sales associate renders a professional service and is a professional within the meaning of s. 95.11(4)(a).
(k) "Single agent" means a broker who represents, as a fiduciary, either the buyer or seller but not both in the same transaction.
(l) "Transaction broker" means a broker who provides limited representation to a buyer, a seller, or both, in a real estate transaction, but does not represent either in a fiduciary capacity or as a single agent. In a transaction broker relationship, a buyer or seller is not responsible for the acts of a licensee. Additionally, the parties to a real estate transaction are giving up their rights to the undivided loyalty of a licensee. This aspect of limited representation allows a licensee to facilitate a real estate transaction by assisting both the buyer and the seller, but a licensee will not work to represent one party to the detriment of the other party when acting as a transaction broker to both parties.
(m) "Voluntarily inactive status" means the licensure status that results when a licensee has applied to the department to be placed on inactive status and has paid the fee prescribed by rule.
(2) The terms "employ," "employment," "employer," and "employee," when used in this chapter and in rules adopted pursuant thereto to describe the relationship between a broker and a sales associate, include an independent contractor relationship when such relationship is intended by and established between a broker and a sales associate. The existence of such relationship shall not relieve either the broker or the sales associate of her or his duties, obligations, or responsibilities under this chapter.
(3) Wherever the word "operate" or "operating" as a broker, broker associate, or sales associate appears in this chapter; in any order, rule, or regulation of the commission; in any pleading, indictment, or information under this chapter; in any court action or proceeding; or in any order or judgment of a court, it shall be deemed to mean the commission of one or more acts described in this chapter as constituting or defining a broker, broker associate, or sales associate, not including, however, any of the exceptions stated therein. A single such act is sufficient to bring a person within the meaning of this chapter, and each act, if prohibited herein, constitutes a separate offense.
(4) A broker acting as a trustee of a trust created under chapter 689 is subject to the provisions of this chapter unless the trustee is a bank, state or federal association, or trust company possessing trust powers as defined in s. 658.12(23).
475.011 Exemptions.--This part does not apply to:
(1) Any person acting as an attorney in fact for the purpose of the execution of contracts or conveyances only; as an attorney at law within the scope of her or his duties as such; as a certified public accountant, as defined in chapter 473, within the scope of her or his duties as such; as the personal representative, receiver, trustee, or general or special magistrate under, or by virtue of, an appointment by will or by order of a court of competent jurisdiction; or as trustee under a deed of trust, or under a trust agreement, the ultimate purpose and intent whereof is charitable, is philanthropic, or provides for those having a natural right to the bounty of the donor or trustor.
(2) Any individual, corporation, partnership, trust, joint venture, or other entity which sells, exchanges, or leases its own real property; however, this exemption shall not be available if and to the extent that an agent, employee, or independent contractor paid a commission or other compensation strictly on a transactional basis is employed to make sales, exchanges, or leases to or with customers in the ordinary course of an owner's business of selling, exchanging, or leasing real property to the public.
(3) Any employee of a public utility, a rural electric cooperative, a railroad, or a state or local governmental agency who acts within the scope of her or his employment, for which no compensation in addition to the employee's salary is paid, to buy, sell, appraise, exchange, rent, auction, or lease any real property or any interest in real property for the use of her or his employer.
(4) Any salaried employee of an owner, or of a registered broker for an owner, of an apartment community who works in an onsite rental office of the apartment community in a leasing capacity.
(5) Any person employed for a salary as a manager of a condominium or cooperative apartment complex as a result of any activities or duties which the person may have in relation to the renting of individual units within such condominium or cooperative apartment complex if rentals arranged by the person are for periods no greater than 1 year.
(6) Any person, partnership, corporation, or other legal entity which, for another and for compensation or other valuable consideration, sells, offers to sell, advertises for sale, buys, offers to buy, or negotiates the sale or purchase of radio, television, or cable enterprises licensed and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934. However, if the sale or purchase of the radio, television, or cable enterprise involves the sale or lease of land, buildings, fixtures, and all other improvements to the land, a broker or sales associate licensed under this chapter shall be retained for the portion of the transaction which includes the land, buildings, fixtures, and all other improvements to the land.
(7) Any full-time graduate student who is enrolled in a commission-approved degree program in appraising at a college or university in this state, if the student is acting under the direct supervision of a licensed broker or a licensed or certified appraiser and is engaged only in appraisal activities related to the approved degree program. Any appraisal report by the student must be issued in the name of the supervising individual.
(a) An owner of one or part of one or more timeshare periods for the owner's own use and occupancy who later offers one or more of such periods for resale.
(b) An exchange company, as that term is defined by s. 721.05(15), but only to the extent that the exchange company is engaged in exchange program activities as described in and is in compliance with s. 721.18.
(9) Any person registered, licensed, or certified by the department under part II as an appraiser or trainee appraiser performing appraisals in accordance with that part.
(10) Any person who appraises under the unit-rule method of valuation a railroad or railroad terminal company assessed for ad valorem tax purposes pursuant to s. 193.085.
(11) Any person, partnership, corporation, or other legal entity which, for another and for compensation or other valuable consideration, rents or advertises for rent, for transient occupancy, any public lodging establishment licensed under chapter 509.
(12) Any dealer registered under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or any federally insured depository institution and any parent, subsidiary, or affiliate thereof, in connection with the sale, exchange, purchase, or rental of a business enterprise to or by a person who is an accredited investor as defined by 15 U.S.C. s. 77b, the Securities Act of 1933, or any regulation adopted thereunder. This exemption applies whether stock or assets of the business enterprise are purchased or sold. The exemption does not apply to a sale, exchange, purchase, or rental of land, buildings, fixtures or other improvements to the land which is not made in connection with the sale, exchange, purchase, or rental of a business enterprise. Any reference to rental in this subsection includes a lease transaction.
(13) Any property management firm or any owner of an apartment complex for the act of paying a finder's fee or referral fee to an unlicensed person who is a tenant in such apartment complex provided the value of the fee does not exceed $50 per transaction. Nothing in this subsection authorizes an unlicensed person to advertise or otherwise promote the person's services in procuring or assisting in procuring prospective lessees or tenants of apartment units. For purposes of this subsection, "finder's fee" or "referral fee" means a fee paid, credit towards rent, or some other thing of value provided to a person for introducing or arranging an introduction between parties to a transaction involving the rental or lease of an apartment unit. It is a violation of s. 475.25(1)(h) and punishable under s. 475.42 for a property management firm or any owner of an apartment complex to pay a finder's fee or a referral fee to an unlicensed person unless expressly authorized by this subsection.