Fairfax County officials recently have strongly criticized real estate agents and new-home builders for failing to provide information about proposed roads and other public facilities to home buyers.
Several members of the county board of supervisors have urged those selling real estate in Fairfax to encourage buyers to seek information from county officials.
The issue was highlighted recently during debate over a proposal -- ultimately rejected -- to delete a planned extension of Lawyers Road in western Fairfax from the county's long-range transportation plan.
Many residents of the nearby Fox Mill Estates told county officials they had not been told about the Lawyers Road extension when they bought their homes.
Those complaints sparked harsh criticism of the building and real estate industry.
"What we have here is a part of a continuing problem in this entire community. Many people moved in and were not told by real estate sales people of the proposed road," Supervisor James Scott said.
He said the problem is countywide and called on builders and the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors to take responsibility for educating those who sell homes about proposed roads and other public improvements.
Other county officials agreed, and have urged agents and builders to find out what is going on in the areas where they are building and selling. They cautioned that agents and developers must recognize a responsibility "that goes beyond making a commission."
County officials and real estate agents agreed that the continuing rapid growth of commercial and residential construction in Fairfax magnifies the problem because both staff members and agents have a tough time keeping up with every new development or road under construction, planned or proposed.
"If staff members don't have current information, who does?" asked one agent.
Industry sources said they think that in some cases agents intentionally withhold information to sell a house, but agents contend those cases are rare. Agents who sell under false pretenses can be sued.
Supervisor Nancy Falck said she "deplored" misleading tactics in the home sales business.
Many developers of planned communities such as Fairfax Station, Burke Center and Franklin Farms have posted large signs showing those looking for new homes exactly where the right-of-way for the Springfield Bypass is located. Those signs were posted by the developers who assembled the land, rather than by individual builders who may have bought large parcels on which to build and sell houses.
Tony Ahuja, a Northern Virginia Builders Association official, said that "Fairfax ought to start an education program for potential home buyers."
He said the association encourages its members to provide as much data as possible, including a list of county offices so that potential buyers can seek information on everything from what is planned on adjacent land to schools near the home they are considering buying.
Ahuja said that "the county does not always provide the right information. It makes more sense for buyers to go to the governments involved and for agents to send their clients to the county or to the state.
"We are more than willing to cooperate, but it makes more sense to direct buyers to the best source of information," he said. Ahuja said sending buyers to the governments involved also "minimizes the possibility of legal action" against builders by buyers.
William (Kip) Laughlin, president-elect of the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors, was questioned about agents' responsibility to dispense correct information about roads after he voiced support from Realtors for the upcoming county road bond referendum.
Laughlin said he thinks agents try to keep up to date on information such as new or proposed roads.
He suggested "establishing a direct connection between county officials and the NVBR so that we can better communicate."
He said some liaison between local supervisors' offices or the county land-use and transportation offices might be set up.
Laughlin said the status of proposed major roads near new subdivisions or resale homes "could be put into the board of Realtors multiple-listing computer operation and come out as part of the morning update" that comes in daily listing sales and new homes for sale.
Laughlin said it might be possible to issue a road memo on a regular basis.
But even going to county officials apparently has had its pitfalls.
A Herndon couple trying to sell their home in mid-May sent a buyer who had made a full-price offer on their house to the county's Department of Transportation to verify the placement of the controversial Lawyers Road Extended and the long-awaited Springfield Bypass.
The would-be buyer allegedly was given wrong information, and the sale of the house fell through.
According to an affidavit filed with county officials by Diane Gordon, she and her husband Bill put their home in Fox Mill Estates in western Fairfax on the market and got a contract before the house went into the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors multiple-listing computer.
A transportation staff member told the buyers that a full cloverleaf interchange of the bypass and Lawyers Road Extended could be built where the Gordons five-year-old home now sits, according to affidavits.
Gordon said the staff member told the purchasers "that the area where my house is located is proposed as a cloverleaf; that the flood plain near the house could be filled in and concreted over."
However, after the sale fell through, Eric Foster, chief of the transportation planning section, according to affidavits, told Gordon that "there was no need to even mention the cloverleaf because the cloverleaf would not be built, that the county would protect the flood plain."
Gordon this week said her home has been sold to someone who is satisfied with the road situation. The bypass will be "two football fields away" from the house, and Lawyers Road Extended -- if ever built -- will be "one football field away. There are a bunch of trees buffering the house."
Gordon and her family are moving only a few blocks away to a bigger house.
"All I was trying to do was to be honest," Gordon said of her decision to send the potential buyer to the county for information about proposed roads.
The maps used in the discussion with the buyer apparently were drawn in the 1960s or early '70s, sources at the county said.
As a result of the incident, Fairfax supervisors told the transportation staff to establish an official policy stating that "no cloverleaf will be developed nor is there one proposed in the long-range future for the Springfield Bypass and Fox Mill subdivision."