Must I Push and Probe for Representation Info?
Dear Shannon: A listing Realtor told a buyer at their open house about another one of their listings that sounded ideal for them – and the Realtor honestly informed the buyer that waiting to tell their current Realtor might lose them the home. Why is that wrong?
ORLANDO, Fla. – Dear Shannon: I’m a listing agent. A buyer came to my open house and said they’re looking for more of a fixer-upper because they really enjoyed “fixing up” their last home. I told the buyer I had a listing on just such a property and thought it sounded perfect for them. The buyer asked if they should tell their Realtor® about this property so their Realtor could make showing arrangements.
I told the buyer I had just taken the listing that morning and it would likely sell before any other Realtors had a chance to show it. It was important that I be honest with the buyer, and I explained that timing and opportunity are crucial in this market. I mentioned that it would be a shame if the buyer missed out on this opportunity and encouraged them to let me show them this perfect property because it was just around the corner.
The buyer agreed I was right – the other property was perfect, just as I suspected. They closed quickly and everyone is happy. Well, almost everyone.
Now there is a ridiculous complaint filed against me claiming that I somehow interfered with another Realtor’s exclusive relationship. Really? I heard the buyer when they asked if they should tell their Realtor to show them the other property. If the buyer said they had an exclusive relationship with their Realtor, of course, I would have backed off.
Don’t tell me it’s my job to question the buyer about their relationship with their Realtor. – Not My Job
Dear Not My Job: Okay, so, of course, you want to service the real estate needs of both buyers and sellers. Being honest with buyers is important, and I love that you shared your expertise by explaining that timing and opportunity are critical in this market.
However, as a Realtor, you have agreed to abide by the Realtor Code of Ethics. And when the buyer said they were working with another Realtor, that was your signal to think through what the Code says about this. Why? Because not asking the buyer for more specific Realtor-relationship information could be an issue under Article 16 of the Code of Ethics.
You say if the buyer told you they had an exclusive relationship with their Realtor you would have backed off. Okay, good. This sounds like you understand the basic concepts under Article 16 – that 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.
However, you say it’s not your job to question the buyer about their relationship with their Realtor. Not true. Remember, Standard of Practice 16-9 says Realtors, prior to entering into a representation agreement, have an affirmative obligation to make reasonable efforts to determine whether the prospect is subject to a current, valid, exclusive agreement to provide the same type of real estate service.
In this case, the buyer told you they were working with another Realtor. It is your job to make reasonable efforts to determine whether the buyer had an exclusive relationship with the other Realtor. Here, you made no efforts at all to make such determination. This is a potential issue under Article 16 as interpreted by Standard of Practice 16-9.
Shannon Allen is a lawyer and Director of Local Association Services for Florida Realtors®
Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication
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