Club Chaos Agents - All Things Hollish, Wacked, and Jacked

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Whose Listing Is It, Anyway?

home buying sacramentoIt's hard, at times, to tell if a person is joking around or not when you receive an email. I am not a big fan of smiley faces, but against my better judgment, I can be guilty of slipping them into emails. That's because not everybody appreciates my wry sense of humor. And sometimes I'm so busy that I literally don't have time to make sure my parenthesis is facing the right way. It's easy to type a frowny face by mistake. I'm so happy that you sent me a photo of your new baby; she's adorable. Frowny face.

We can all make mistakes, honest mistakes. We're only human. But what about the people who deliberately set out to deceive and then claim they made a mistake? Or worse, don't rectify it? And those people are real estate agents? I ask myself if I should report them. On the one hand, I pretty much leave other agents alone and don't turn them in, even when I spot blatant, unethical behavior. I'm not the ethics police. I also don't have time for it. I subscribe to the theory that what comes around, goes around. Or maybe that phrase is the other way around? Whatever, somebody else will get them.

Whether to report a violation is one thing, but another aspect is whether one should one talk about it in public. If it's information the public should probably know, I say, yes, even if it tends to taint the profession. Other agents may disagree and say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

So, I'm just gonna tell you what happened. Without naming the website, I tried to manually post a new listing but the site told me the home was already claimed. Not surprising; it was listed before. I clicked on the details and noticed the home was listed for sale by an agent other than the previous listing agent. But it had the old listing number attached to it.

I called the seller to find out if she had any knowledge of this agent. Nope. The seller called the agent. Immediately, the agent dove into bait and switch mode. The seller made it clear that it was her home she was calling about and she was not a buyer. The agent mumbled something about this being a very confusing situation and promised to remove it.

A few days went by, and the listing was still published under that agent's name. Hmmm. I wondered how many other Sacramento listings were swiped and misrepresented. Usually, people who would do unethical things do other unethical things. That agent had a couple of pages worth of listings. I ran the first 5 addresses in MLS. Not one belonged to that agent. What a good idea, the agent might have thought. I know how to get buyers to call me. I'll just swipe a bunch of listings, who cares if they're even for sale or not, and post them on a website as my own. Brilliant. No, it's stupid. And it's unethical.

I finally notified the staff at that website, and several people responded. It's difficult to regulate, they say. Well, how about you make the poster check a box that says, "If this listing doesn't belong to me, I authorize you to charge my credit card a $1,000." They liked that idea. I heard giggles. And the website removed the listing.

Why should the public care? Because the Internet is unregulated. It's difficult to trust some of what you read. You should not rely on information found on questionable or unknown websites. If you're searching in Google for "how to make dog biscuits," you might not want to follow the recipe published by survivalists-who-eat-dogs dot com. If you're looking for a real estate agent, ask a friend for a referral. If you find the agent online, check out that agent. It's very easy for an agent to produce a print-out from MLS containing that agent's production records. You might want to ask for it. And use a smiley face in your request.

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Elizabeth Weintraub is an author, home buying expert for About.com, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Weintraub is also a Sacramento Short Sale agent who lists and successfully sells short sales throughout the four-county Sacramento area with an emphasis on Elk Grove. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put 40 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate. BRE License # 00697006.

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Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of Lyon Real Estate. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to elizabethweintraub.com.

Comments

Cleaning up the industry is everyone's responsibility.  Unethical behavior unpunished leads to the perception that we are all the same.  Great post. 

Posted by Don Sabinske, Sabinske & Associates Inc. (Don Sabinske, Sabinske & Associates Inc.) about 9 years ago

Your post illustrates a difficult situation we all face--whether to file a complaint, or not.  You certainly had a digital trail.  Your seller confirmed the fraud, rather than you, so you don't have a direct involvement with this crazy agent.  But, as you said, you're not the ethics police.  Still, I think your local board of realtors should be informed that such a practice is taking place, without naming names, and that the board should issue a warning to the realtors in the area that such a fraud would constitute an actionable offense (which realy would be quite easy to prove).  Just a thought, Elizabeth.  Charlie Gantz, Greenwood, IN; J.D., M.B.A.; Owner/Principal Broker, Atlas Commercial Real Estate, LLC

Posted by Charlie Gantz, J.D., M.B.A. (Keller Williams Commercial, Tampa Bay) about 9 years ago

Well, I did take screen shots and sent them to the Sacramento Board of REALTORS. I figured this agent had a chance to rectify the mistake and chose to ignore it. I don't feel good about squealing but it had to be done.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (Lyon Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Elizabeth,

Your post both made me :) and :(

Posted by Lori Churchill Cofer, Realtor - 509-330-0086 - Pullman, WA (Beasley Realty) about 9 years ago

Elizabeth -- Lori's response is a great one. 

I had a similar experience and the best only way to correct it is to report it.

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) about 9 years ago

This is the problem with Syndication. I had a call about a listing of mine on Trulia- but it had been sold. I didn't even know it was still out there. 

Posted by J. Philip Faranda, Broker-Owner (J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY) about 9 years ago

Lori: You crack me up.

Norma: Well, I did. But I didn't want to.

J Phillip: It's not a syndication problem. This particular site requires manual posting.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (Lyon Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Thank you for sharing Elizabeth! It's already hard getting  prospects to trust an agent, but doing unethical things such as this does not make it any better. The other problem is that there are soooo many websites out there that you can post on...how are we to know if a property is being misrepresented in this way?

Posted by DAdrea Davie, Stanislaus & San Joaquin Short Sale Agent (Keller Williams Realty) about 9 years ago

Elizabeth:  The Internet can certainly feel like a poorly lit back alley filled with slimeballs, can't it?  Where there is no regulation, what do we expect, but to see the worst in the worst people.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) about 9 years ago

Elizabeth - This a very interesting post!  You demonstrate how the Wild Wild West of the Internet has managed to lasoo in a few real estate "professionals" and has them working in a standard we would have never seen a few years ago. 

I LOVE your idea of imposing fines or a credit card charge for violations!  Quite honestly however, it goes far beyond that!  HOW can an agent pretend to represent a seller they don't have a signed listing contract with?  It seems this would breach far into a world beyond a mere $1000 fine!  I wonder how the Department of Real Estate would decipher such activity!

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) about 9 years ago

Elizabeth unfornately we have come to a crossroads in our industry.   We can all name agents in our area who go beyond the "honest mistake" into regular violations of the COE.  If an agent has gone as far as this one has it is beyond a mistake and should be reported to the local RE Board.  If we don't clean up our own ranks certainly no one else will and if consumers confidence in us is low we can only blame ourselves for allowing this type of behavior to stand.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) about 9 years ago

Unfortunately, this kind of violation does not (surprisingly) fall under the Department of Real Estate regulations. I imagine the Sacramento Board of REALTORS will take care of this, though.

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Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (Lyon Real Estate) about 9 years ago

Liz, that's a new one for me.  I didn't realize folks would do that.  Seems as if some folks are very clever at figuring out ways to cheat.

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) about 9 years ago

Anything for a fast buck. It never lasts. They will get caught in the end. Don't feel bad about it whatsoever.

Posted by Robert L. Brown, Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic (www.mrbrownsellsgr.com) about 9 years ago

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