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Dear Anne: Expired Listing Causes Realtor Feeding Frenzy

A seller claims he received at least 70 phone calls from real estate agents after his Realtor pulled his MLS listing so he could make some repairs – but two agents kept calling even after the home’s MLS return. Do agents have an ethical duty to check the MLS before calling?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Anne: I have a hard-to-sell listing – a rental property that fell into disrepair. After six months on the market, my seller finally decided to heed my advice, pry open his wallet and make the necessary repairs. I changed the listing status to temporarily off the market and let the listing expire to give him time to complete his renovations.

After the listing expired, other agents hoping to list his property bombarded my seller with telephone calls, text messages and written solicitations. He swears 70 agents contacted him. He became so angry that he considered donating his property to the fire department for training purposes.

I told him if he could step up the repairs, we could relist right away, and the solicitations would come to a screeching halt after the listing was back in the MLS. I had to act fast or risk losing his listing, ergo my commission.

Two weeks after the old listing expired, the seller completed renovations. He was anxious to recoup his expenditures and stop the harassment, so we signed a new listing agreement and I managed to reset the Days on the Market to zero.

Unfortunately, two pesky agents working in tandem for the same team kept dogging my seller about taking the listing. He told them he relisted with me and to go away before they stopped.

Don’t these agents have an obligation to check the MLS before soliciting expired listings? – Signed, Disgusted

Dear Disgusted: The current lack of inventory tends to create a feeding frenzy when listings expire. The persistent agents were on the hunt for business. The question is, did they cross the line ethically?

If they knew before they contacted the seller you had relisted the property, it’s possible an ethics hearing panel could find these two in violation of Article 16. Article 16 says, “REALTORS® shall not engage in any practice or take any action inconsistent with exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other REALTORS® have with clients.

Based on your scenario, I get the impression the persistent agents did not know the property was relisted until your seller told them and once they knew, they stopped. In answer to your question, they are not obligated to check the MLS before they solicit a prospect.

To be thorough, though, I want to dive into Standard of Practice 16-9. This standard of practice does create an affirmative obligation for members to make a reasonable effort to determine if a prospect is subject to a valid exclusive agreement prior to entering into an exclusive representation agreement. As you can see, this obligation is very specific about doing your homework before entering into an agreement with a prospect.

Sending out general mailings to geographic areas, telephone canvasing and what not, are permitted per Standard of Practice 16-2. Again, when you solicit business not knowing if the recipient of your promotional pieces is listed, more than likely a hearing panel will not find you in violation of the Code.

Again, it’s all about knowing in advance if the prospect is in an exclusive relationship with another Realtor.

But it always helps to know what the Code says about solicitations that are considered unethical, which means we need to return to Standard of Practice 16-2:

  • Trolling active listings in the MLS
  • Targeting properties with real estate signs in the front yard
  • Gleaning information from services that post exclusively listed property

I’m sure our readers noticed your comments regarding cumulative days on the market and suspect a little fishy business on your part. Let me say, the manipulation of listings is a local thing and vary from one MLS to another. I’m only mentioning it because it will be pointed out if I don’t!

Anne Cockayne is Director of Local Association Services for Florida Realtors

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