Do you have a question or topic related to REALTOR® ethics that you would like addressed in a future issue of Ethics Exchange? Click here to e-mail Scott Bush at the GMAR.
Case Interpretation: Continued Contact with Potential Seller Who Enters Into an Exclusive Listing with Another REALTOR®
At the conclusion of a detailed listing presentation, REALTOR® B asked the sellers whether they had any questions. “No,” said Seller Z. “Your presentation was professional and complete and we very much appreciate your time. We have appointments with two other firms and after we talk to them we’ll make our decision.” REALTOR® B thanked the sellers and encouraged them to contact him with any questions they might have. “I really look forward to being your broker,” he added.

Several days later, REALTOR® B noticed that Seller Z’s property had come on the market, listed with REALTOR® a. REALTOR® B and REALTOR® A were friends, but were also quite competitive, both frequently pursuing the same potential seller-clients. “I wonder why Seller Z decided to list with REALTOR® A,” mused REALTOR® B, “it won’t matter if I just call and ask why they decided to list with my friend REALTOR® A instead of me.” REALTOR® B called the sellers and left a message on their voicemail asking for a return call at their convenience.

That evening, Seller Z returned REALTOR® B’s phone call. REALTOR® B started the conversation by thanking Seller Z and his wife for their time. “What I’d like to know is why you chose to give your listing to REALTOR® A instead of me?” he then asked. “Don’t get me wrong, REALTOR® A is a good broker and will do a good job for you. I’m not suggesting you cancel your listing with REALTOR® A but if your listing expires and REALTOR® A hasn’t sold it, I’d be pleased to talk to you about listing with me.”

Seller Z did not follow up on REALTOR® B’s offer and the following weekend at REALTOR® A’s open house Seller Z and his wife recounted REALTOR® B’s follow-up phone call. Over the next few days REALTOR® A debated filing an ethics complaint. He weighed his friendship with REALTOR® B against what he saw as his duty to bring potentially unethical conduct to the attention of the association of REALTORS®. Somewhat reluctantly, he filed an ethics complaint alleging a violation of Article 16, as interpreted by Standard of Practice 16-13.

At the hearing, REALTOR® A called Seller Z as a witness. Seller Z faithfully recounted the substance of REALTOR® B’s conversation with Seller Z and his wife, commenting that while REALTOR® B had said he was only trying to understand why he hadn’t been given the listing, it appeared to Seller Z that REALTOR® B wanted Seller Z to cancel his listing with REALTOR® A. Then REALTOR® B testified in his own defense. He acknowledged he had been aware that REALTOR® A had already exclusively listed the property when he contacted Seller Z and asked for a follow-up appointment. He defended his actions stating he was not trying to induce Seller Z to cancel the listing, he was simply trying to find out what he had said – or failed to say – that led Seller Z to list with REALTOR® A instead of with him, and wanted Seller Z and his wife to be fully aware of the services he would provide if their listing with REALTOR® A expired.

The Hearing Panel did not agree with REALTOR® B’s defense, noting that REALTOR® B’s curiosity or desire to enhance his listing presentation skills did not justify continued contact with a potential seller-client after that seller had entered into an exclusive representation agreement with another broker. REALTOR® B was found in violation of Article 16 as interpreted by Standard of Practice 16-13.
We hope you enjoyed Issue #15 of Ethics Exchange 2021 brought to you by the Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® (GMAR). The GMAR created this newsletter, each issue dedicated to a unique issue, because the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, on which our industry is built, is the foundation of what it means to be a REALTOR®.
Your proactive support of the Code of Ethics will assure your fellow REALTORS®, as well as members of the public, that every member of GMAR operates under the highest ethical standards.
Questions, comments or concerns regarding this issue can be directed to
Scott Bush at the GMAR Office (414-778-4929 or [email protected]).