REALTOR® A purchased a banner ad on the website of his local newspaper. In the body of the ad were pictures of several homes and their addresses. At the top of the ad was the following: “We’ve sold these — we can sell yours, too.”
The following week three complaints were received from other Association Members alleging that REALTOR® A’s banner ad was in violation of Article 12. Each of the complaints noted that REALTOR® A had participated in the transaction as the successful cooperating broker who had located the eventual purchasers, but the complaints also claimed that REALTOR® A’s claim to have “sold” these properties was false and misleading since none of the properties had been listed with him and, in one instance, the sale had yet to close.
Since all the complaints involved the same advertisement, they were consolidated to be heard at the same hearing before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Standards Committee.
At the hearing, REALTOR® A defended his actions on the basis that although the properties had been listed with other brokers, he had been the “selling” or “cooperating” broker and was entitled to advertise his role in the transactions.
The Hearing Panel agreed with REALTOR® A’s reasoning in their decision, pointing out that Article 12 as interpreted by Standard of Practice 12-7, provides that cooperating brokers (selling brokers) may claim to have “sold” the property and that such claims may be made by either the listing broker or the cooperating broker or by both of them upon acceptance of a purchase offer by the seller. The panel also noted that REALTOR® A could have shown that he had “participated in” or had “cooperated in” these transactions and also met his ethical obligations.
The panel’s decision also indicated that during the existence of any listing, the cooperating broker’s rights to advertise and market flow from the listing broker. However, claims of this nature were not advertisements of the properties but rather were advertisements of the broker’s services. The only limitation on the ability of a cooperating broker to claim or to represent that a property had been “sold” was that the listing broker’s consent would be required before a “sold” sign could physically be placed on the seller’s property prior to closing.