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Dear Anne: My Seller Won't Work with Broker X. Now What?

A Realtor’s friend and colleague works at a different brokerage, and per a seller’s instructions, she must ban the entire brokerage from representing a buyer if she wants a listing. It’s a personal problem but is it a Code of Ethics problem? Can she ban a single business from the transaction?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Anne: My seller dropped a bomb on me yesterday. She was adamant – she does not want my friend and colleague from another brokerage to show her property. I know this agent. He’s an honest, upstanding guy, and it grieves me to treat Fred this way.

However, it’s not just Fred. She he doesn’t want anyone from Fred’s brokerage involved with the sale of her property. Apparently, the seller once owned a rental property, and her past dealings with the brokerage did not go well.

It feels wrong, and I could walk away – but I need this listing and cannot afford to give it up, especially when my market has so few homes in inventory. Maybe I’m hoping this is somehow a Code of Ethics violation, and I’ll be able to turn to my seller and say “Dear Anne told me I’m not allowed to ban any brokerage from the transaction.”

Help, please. What can I do? – Signed, Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: This is not an uncommon predicament, and Article 3 of the Code of Ethics is on the seller’s side. The obligation under Article 3 says, Realtors® shall cooperate with other brokers except when cooperation is not in the client’s best interest. And in this case, your seller is telling you it’s not in her best interest to cooperate with this brokerage based on past dealings.

As early as possible, Fred should be afforded the courtesy of knowing your listing is off limits so he can inform his sales associates. It’s nothing personal; you’re following your seller’s instructions.

I want to share one of my pet peeves: When situations like yours arise, listing agents sometimes identify the named company or agent forbidden from participating in the sale in broker remarks. This is tacky, unprofessional, and just plain not cool.

Imagine you found the perfect property for your buyer in the MLS but discover in the broker remarks, the seller has declared you persona non grata. This is embarrassing and avoidable. I’m not sure your MLS will be fond of this approach either. With advance notice, Fred could refer the buyer to another brokerage for that particular property.

When a broker submits a listing to the MLS, they’ve making a unilateral offer of compensation to all participants, including people like Fred, the broker who has been told your listing is off limits. Listings entered in the MLS must be accompanied by an offer of compensation. Period.

Standard of Practice 1-12 of the Code of Ethics requires listing agents to inform sellers about the amount of commission they intend to pay a cooperating broker. In this case, the seller doesn’t want Fred to benefit from the sale of her listing; however, if she wants her listing in the MLS, Fred must be offered something, and the listing broker is obligated to apprise her what that something is.

The listing broker may offer Fred compensation other than what’s published by the MLS. Any superseding offer of compensation must be in the form of a percentage of the gross sales price or as a flat dollar amount. The MLS rules obligate the listing broker to inform the cooperating broker, in writing and in advance of submitting an offer to purchase, that the offer of commission has been modified from what is being offered to the other participants in the MLS.

Based on the tone of your question, it is apparent you want to honor your seller’s wishes without offending the cooperating brokerage. I get that and hope the cooperating broker understands your dilemma. Good luck.

Anne Cockayne is Director of Local Association Services for Florida Realtors

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