Code of Ethics Case Study

Case #16-21: Continued Contact With Potential Seller Who Enters Into an Exclusive Listing With Another REALTOR® (Adopted November, 2011) 

REALTOR® P and Ms. Q had been members of the church choir for several years and had become social friends. One evening after choir practice Ms. Q mentioned that now that her children were grown and out of the family home, she and her husband were seriously considering downsizing. “I’m sure I can help you with that,” said REALTOR® P, “I’m going away for the weekend but I’ll get in touch with you early next week.”

The following Monday evening REALTOR® P called Ms. Q. After exchanging pleasantries, REALTOR® P turned the conversation toward business. “I’ve identified some comparable sales to show you and I’d like to come over and visit with you and your husband to discuss listing your home,” she said. After a lengthy pause, Ms. Q shared with REALTOR® P that her husband had been very anxious to get started and over the weekend they had visited several local real estate brokerages and had listed their home with REALTOR® B. “I hope you understand,” said Ms. Q, “my husband makes all of our business decisions and he was very impressed with REALTOR® B and his plans for selling our house.” REALTOR® P responded positively telling Ms. Q, “I know REALTOR® B. He’ll do a fine job for you. If there is ever anything I can do for you in the future, never hesitate to call me.” On that note, REALTOR® P and Ms. Q ended their conversation.

The next afternoon REALTOR® B was at the Q’s home placing his “For Sale” sign on their front lawn. Ms. Q invited REALTOR® B into the house for coffee. During their conversation, she mentioned her conversation the evening before with REALTOR® P, commenting, “I was so relieved that REALTOR® P wasn’t upset that I didn’t list with her. She was very gracious and even suggested that I should call her if she could be of assistance to us in the future.” REALTOR® B said nothing about Ms. Q’s remark, but after returning to his office filled out the paperwork necessary to file an ethics complaint against REALTOR® P, charging her with violating Article 16, as interpreted by Standard of Practice 16-13.

At the hearing convened to consider the complaint, REALTOR® B testified that REALTOR® P had directly contacted his exclusive client, Ms. Q, and after Ms. Q had shared with REALTOR® P the fact that the Q’s home had been listed by REALTOR® B, had not immediately terminated their telephone conversation. “Even worse,” said REALTOR® B, “REALTOR® P told Ms. Q that she should call her if there was ever anything she could do for her.REALTOR® P’s offer to be of assistance ‘at any time in the future’ was simply a thinly-veiled attempt to convince the Q’s to cancel their listing with me and to list with her.

REALTOR® P, testifying in her defense, noted that she did not know the Q’s property had been listed by REALTOR® B when she called Ms. Q; that when Ms. Q informed her they had listed their property with REALTOR® B she had responded courteously, professionally, and positively, assuring Ms. Q that REALTOR® B would do a good job for the Qs; and that her offer was simply to be of assistance in future real estate transactions, possibly the purchase of a new home or condominium. “Once I learned that REALTOR® B had listed the Q’s property, I ended our telephone conversation as quickly and as politely as I could,” concluded REALTOR® P, “I certainly was not trying to interfere in REALTOR® B’s exclusive contract with the Qs.”

After giving careful consideration to the testimony of both parties, the Hearing Panel concluded that REALTOR® P had not violated Article 16 as interpreted by Standard of Practice 16-13, and that her offer to be of assistance in the future was simply a polite way to end the conversation.