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Dear Anne – Not from My MLS? Go Away!

Sometimes a buyer’s Realtor lives hundreds of miles away, and the listing agent ends up doing most of the work on behalf of this absentee agent who, of course, still expects a full commission. When can you draw a line and refuse to do other people’s work for them?  

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Anne: It seems everyone from who-knows-where thinks they can show my listing to their buyers. I’m not talking about fellow MLS participants from across town – I’m talking about agents who live two counties away!

Why don’t they stay where they are, refer their buyers to local agents, and be satisfied with collecting a referral fee?

Not only do these outsiders come into my marketplace, they expect me to do all the work because their physical bodies are sometimes hundreds of miles away. And, of course, they don’t have lockbox access. This is a big inconvenience for the listing agent. If you ask me, the rules should say, “No lockbox, no access.”

The worst scenario is agents who want me to show the property for them because they’re too busy to leave town – or they simply tell the buyer, “Oh, the listing agent will show it to you.” I tell them if they want their buyer to see it, they can show it themselves. If not, I’m keeping both sides of the commission since I’m doing both jobs.

Then they get nasty. Well, excuse me, but I don’t work for you, and if I do your work, I should be paid for it.

I know my market better than they do, and I’m a better judge of what’s best for homebuyers in my area. As far as I’m concerned, they need to stay home and let me do my job in my zip code. – Stay off My Patch!

Dear Stay Off My Patch: If I’m not mistaken, possessing an active real estate license in Florida legally permits agents to sell real estate from the Panhandle to the Keys.

You’re not the first agent, nor will you be the last, to complain about outside agents coming into town. Cooperating with agents who aren’t members of your MLS can be burdensome for all the reasons you stated in your question.

I get that. But the seller hired you to sell his property, not to fret over MLS service boundaries. Your ethical obligations under Article 3 of the Code of Ethics obligate you to cooperate and make the property available to other brokers for showing to perspective purchasers and tenants per Standard of Practice 3-10. This means you must provide access unless it is not in your client’s best interest. If you subscribe to a “No lockbox, no access” philosophy, you risk being in violation of Article 3.

Now on to your concern for being paid for your time: Your time is valuable, and no one wants to work for free. Agents “not from here” must ascertain the terms of compensation, if any, before accepting the offer of cooperation. If they do not participate in your MLS through MLS of Choice or their association does not participate in Florida Realtors MLS Advantage, they could end up working for free.

However, if the outside agent is a subscriber to your MLS – or if they belong to an association that participates in MLS Advantage and your listing appears on MLS Advantage – entitlement to compensation is determined by the cooperating broker’s performance as the procuring cause of the sale (or Lease). If you believe you performed the lion’s share of the work and it was your efforts that resulted in the buyer’s purchase of the property, you could be the procuring cause even if the buyer started out working with the outside agent. This is no different than a local agent working with the same buyer – the only difference is the buyer’s agent practices real estate in another locale.

An arbitration panel will compare your series of events with the other agent’s series of events to determine who is the procuring cause. If two members belong to different associations, procuring cause disputes are resolved using interboard arbitration.

Have an ethics or rules question? Email us at legalnews@floridarealtors.org with “Dear Anne” in the subject line.

Anne Cockayne is Director of Local Association Services for Florida Realtors

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