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Code Doesn’t Say What You Think It Says

Dear Shannon: A Realtor who won’t work with potential buyers already working with another Realtor says, “Never have. Never will. It’s unethical.” But is this one of the high standards the Code of Ethics requires?

Dear Shannon: I’m a seasoned Realtor. As Realtors, we must follow the Code of Ethics which requires us to hold ourselves to higher standards. That’s the whole point of being a Realtor.

I read your two previous articles, Must I Push and Probe for Representation Info? and Don’t Add Language to the Code of Ethics. These were great, but you missed something in the first article. When the potential buyers told the listing agent they were working with another Realtor, your article should have guided Realtors to walk away as required by the Code. Standard of Practice (SOP) 16-9 prohibits us from working with potential buyers who are working with another Realtor. Period.

I don’t want to be accused of interfering with another Realtor’s relationship with their potential buyer. I’m sure other Realtors don’t either. So, the moment we, as Realtors, find out that potential buyers are working with another Realtor, we should encourage them to go back to their Realtor and talk to their Realtor about what they want; and then we should walk away.

I hold myself to the high standards required by the Code and I expect other Realtors to do the same. It’s completely unethical and just bad business practice to do otherwise. Help me get other Realtors to hold themselves to these same high standards required by the Code. – High Standards

Dear High Standards: Thank you for reading my last two articles and for your feedback.

Yes, Realtors are bound by the Code of Ethics. It’s what sets Realtors apart. I’m thrilled to hear that this is a point of pride for you, and I love that you’re making every effort to hold yourself to high standards.

However, the Code requires different standards than the standards you appear to follow – and it is unreasonable to expect fellow Realtors to make the same choices you’ve made. Candidly, the Code doesn’t say what you think it says. I think you’ll see what I mean. Let’s look at the language of Article 16 and Standard of Practice (SOP) 16-9.

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. (Amended 1/04)

You said you don’t want to be accused of interfering with another Realtor’s relationship with their potential buyer, and so you do not to interfere with another Realtor’s relationship with a potential buyer, regardless of whether or not their relationship is exclusive.

Let’s think this through and look carefully at the language of Article 16. Notice it focuses on Realtors not taking any action inconsistent with “exclusive” representation or “exclusive” relationship agreements that other Realtors have with clients. It does not say what you think it says … that if potential buyers are working at all with another Realtor, then Realtors have to walk away.

Now let’s turn to Standard of Practice (SOP) 16-9 which 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. (Amended 1/04)

Again, not working with potential buyers just because they tell you they are working with another Realtor misses the obligation to find out if that relationship is “exclusive.” And, possibly, this means you might miss out on potential business.

Neither Article 16 nor SOP 16-9 has language saying Realtors have to walk away if they find out a potential buyer is working with another Realtor. In fact, if the potential buyers do not have an exclusive relationship with another Realtor, there is nothing in the Code that prohibits Realtors from working with them. You refuse to work with potential buyers entirely if they are working at all with another Realtor. That may be your business practice, but that is not something the Code requires.

Shannon Allen is an attorney and Florida Realtors Director of Local Association Services
Note: Advice deemed accurate on date of publication

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