Our San Diego MLS quietly removed our complaint button recently. I’m sure they had heavy volume, but they aren’t the realtor police – nobody is. Hat tip to SM for sending this in:
VANCOUVER – The province is hoping to make it easier for you to report suspected misconduct in the local real estate market by launching a new tool.
A new anonymous tipline has been launched by the Real Estate Council of BC, as part of, what it describes, a way to protect potential homeowners.
“This is a way for people who have information about potential misconduct of real estate agents, that perhaps they’re uncomfortable identifying themselves, they have this as a tool to report information to the council anonymously,” explains Executive Officer Erin Seeley.
The tipline is one of the recommendations made by an Independent Advisory Group two years ago. “The council set up this group as a way to report on the improvements the Real Estate Council can make in overseeing licensees and in protecting the public.”
This new tool allows people to report things like a conflict of interest, failure to disclose information, or even the mishandling of money.
There is a complaints process already in place and Seeley adds the new tool is part of the process currently available to the public.
“It’s anonymous, it’s more accessible with the 1-800 number, and it’s a secure forum,” she says. “And it allows people, regardless of whether they’re a real estate licensee or a consumer, they can use this to report misconduct and not have a fear of reprisal.”
Seeley says just like the current process, all complaints are investigated and reviewed to determine whether a full investigation is required. “If there [are] grounds for misconduct and evidence, we’ll take action as appropriate through the channels of investigating. We have administrative fairness and natural justice as key parts of our process.”
Processes to resolve complaints are available, and if a case warrants it, Seeley says hearings can be held by a tribunal.
“We have financial penalties, significant penalties up to $250,000 for licensees per infraction under the Real Estate Services Act.”
According to Seeley, the council receives a number of complaints and has investigated claims of significant misconduct in the past.
The only recourse around here is to file a complaint with the Association of Realtors, and have the Ethics panel hear your case.
I did file a complaint recently, which meant I had to compile and submit six copies of the evidence. The agent was found guilty, and received the maximum penalty for a first-time offender – a letter in their file for 12 months.
This is the fourth installment of my essay on the future of real estate sales. I’ll send this along to Brad Inman, who is gathering thoughts for a leadership conference at the end of March, so they have my perspective from the street.
The unconscious desperation among agents is ripping apart the formal agreement between brokers to share listings. The environment is going the way of commercial brokers, where exposing listings to other agents is a last resort.
We see it happening – there is the occasional article – but without vigorous intervention by realtors themselves, the MLS will slowly disintegrate and be picked apart by outsiders.
Sadly, the sharing of listings is what is best for sellers, buyers, AND realtors, but the greed and desperation among agents gets in the way.
What Can Be Done? What Are The Choices?
Individual agents can adopt a full-transparency program, starting with publicly describing the specific services they offer, and their commission rates. If consumers took the time to educate themselves about the differences between agents, at least they would make better decisions than they do now. It’s unlikely that this will happen, because agents are lazy and won’t bother, unless forced to do so.
We can hope that N.A.R., C.A.R., big brokerages and other industry titans will address this specific problem, and implement changes to save the MLS and broker cooperation out of a commitment of doing what’s best for consumers. Probably the least likely of these five to actually happen.
We can have big leadership conferences where outsiders will speculate how the disrupters will pick us apart, piece by piece.
We can wait for the government to intervene.
We can do nothing, and watch the broker cooperation via the MLS – which is the best thing for everyone involved – die a slow but certain death.
We can hope that somebody will find an answer. But it would have to include ways to eliminate agent shenanigans, invigorate consumers, and be a forward-thinking solution that benefits all.
The inquiry might start with creating a national MLS, or electing a real estate czar, or encouraging agents to keep their word and quit cheating their own customers out of what’s best.
But what if a thing was the answer?
The solution is LIVE AUCTIONS.
We can easily incorporate them into our regular business as the process to select the winning bidder. All other selection processes used today are subject to the listing agent tilting the table – with a live auction, all participants will be watching, and able to determine the actual winning bidder.
Could there be shill bidders who run up the price? Yes, but let’s insist that every buyer is represented by a realtor – that way, at least the agent’s reputation is on the line.
Live auctions would keep listing agents and buyer-agents employed, though the fee structure may be in flux. But our commissions are already under attack, so let’s take a chance that consumers will agree to pay a reasonable fee for these live auctions, and the other additional benefits provided by realtors.
A live auction doesn’t have to be a showy, champagne-filled soiree with a fast-talking auctioneer. They can be as simple as gathering the buyers around the living room, in a rather informal setting.
I am offering the live-auction strategy to my sellers as the fairest and most effective way to select a buyer, and let the full transparency be the best way to reach top-dollar.
Here’s an example – catch the winning agent’s comments at the 9-minute mark:
Typically, if you want to know what a realtor does to sell your house, you have them over to make a listing presentation in person. Because of antitrust laws that ‘promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers’, the commission rates charged by realtors are rarely seen in public.
Until the discounters came to town.
They advertise their rate because they want to appeal to the price-shoppers. Consumers who shop for the lowest rate are attracted to this ploy, and don’t ask enough questions about what they get for the money.
Because the real estate industry refuses to publish any minimum standards, the discounters can get away with statements like, ‘full service for less’. Today, you can ‘hire’ a realtor for $100 or less – but what do you get, and is it what you want and need?
Let’s start by outlining the levels of service available.
The Different Types of Realtor Service
Full Service – Expert
This is where you get a long-time veteran realtor – a full-timer who has closed hundreds of sales – to handle every aspect of your transaction. Any assistants involved have a similar level of experience, and together they produce a smooth, seamless sale at the absolute highest price possible.
Full Service – Trainee
Every agent learns on-the-job. Consumers deserve to know the differences, but because of the lack of transparency, there is no qualifying of how helpful an agent will be – you are taking a chance. Agents can claim to be in the Top 1%, and say their assistants are ‘experts’, but there are no official standards. As a result, team leaders are prone to hiring lower-cost employees with less experience to fill the gaps. Because it is a fast-paced and complicated business, the trainees struggle to deliver the same results as the real experts.
This is one service that is clearly defined here, because of everything the realtor doesn’t do for you. It is primarily for MLS entry only, where the realtors cash your check, input your listing onto the MLS system and hope you can figure out the rest on your own.
Consumers – and realtors themselves – would be well-served if the real estate industry had a definition of the services provided, and then had every agent publish the specifics of what they do to serve clients.
Zillow does allow agents to list their sales history, but there is no instruction for consumers to properly use the information. Their agent profiles are full of fluff, with at least half of them promising to deliver your ‘dreams’.
If every realtor published their actual services provided (with fees) and a detailed profile of every team member’s experience, then consumers could make an educated decision about who they are hiring.
Somebody needs to say something, so I guess it will be me.
Though I’m still shocked that realtors and their management are willing to stay this quiet, for this long – their silence is deafening. The disrupters are the only ones doing the talking, and because no one else objects, they are getting away with lies and deceit. The consumers deserve better.
This guy does what Glenn and the rest of them do – constantly reminds the viewer that the standard commission is 6%. If you are selling a median priced home (or higher) in Southern California, and think you have to pay 6%, you haven’t looked very hard. Myself and most other agents are happy to deliver full service for 5% or less.
Rex listings aren’t in the MLS, and they are only making sales with buyers they find themselves. But the highly-motivated buyers – the ones who pay top dollar – work with an agent. Why? Because they like the advantages an agent offers, which include convenience and expertise. Because Rex won’t deal with other agents, it narrows the potential buyer pool. If your house isn’t being offered to the highly-motivated buyers, then your bidding war won’t be as robust, and you will sell for less than you could have if you would have hired me.
The buyers they do attract are unrepresented, and deal with robots. The comfort level of those buyers will be lower, and their offers will be too.
It is a fact that buyers who get little or no representation are more likely to fall out of escrow. It might seem sexy in the beginning to make a deal through a new-fangled disrupter, but only the perfect houses at the perfect price make it through escrow without issues. Seen many of those lately?
He agreed that lousy agents aren’t going to survive, but good agents will. In reality, the disrupters are offering an alternative to the lousy agent – for consumers who are willing to put up with minimum service with the illusion of saving a buck, plod ahead. Great agents deliver maximum service, which results in top-dollar sales for sellers, and the best houses for the buyers.
The disrupters have one thing in common – they want you to think that their automating of the process will deliver the same results, and make selling homes easier and cheaper.
But it takes an expert salesman to get personally involved with creating a bidding-war environment to cause a top-dollar sale for sellers. You don’t get that with disrupters (or lousy agents) who just want to process your paperwork.
These differences need to be clearly identified so consumers can make an informed choice. Get Good Help!
More to come later – I have to go beat a robot out of a sale!
The basic premise that drives the real-estate-selling industry is that agents ‘cooperate’ with each other, which is code for ‘I’ll share my listings with you, and you share your listings with me’. We have a written agreement, and subscribe to the strict code of ethics, of course.
But these days, there just aren’t enough sales to go around.
These has always been an undercurrent of pocket listings and off-market deals. But when the president of one of the largest brokerages in California gets quoted in the L.A. Times like this, it makes you think the whole system is unraveling.
Especially with the promise of vetting the properties, what does he mean? Just the hot buys? The easy sales to keep in-house for the new agents to sell? (upon whom the house makes max $$)
The sellers suffer from less exposure, and buyers have fewer choices. But hey, at least the real-estate-selling business will survive, in some form.
When Barbara Hendrickson’s 90-year-old neighbor needed to sell her Berkeley home, crammed with 40 years’ worth of belongings, Hendrickson, a real estate agent, sold the house for her without putting it on the market.
“She was not up to the task of cleaning out all that stuff,” said Hendrickson, an agent with Red Oak Realty. The off-market sale enabled the neighbor to quickly dispose of the house and move to Baton Rouge to be closer to relatives. The buyers took on the onerous job of clearing out the accumulated furniture and possessions.
In general, selling a house off-market isn’t the best approach, experts say. The California Association of Realtors recommends against it, as do East Bay agents including Hendrickson. But sometimes, as in the case of Hendrickson’s neighbor, there are exceptions.
To be clear, “selling off-market” means not listing the house on the local Multiple Listing Service, and is also described as off-market sales or pocket sales.
Greg should disclose the secret weapon mentioned – because if the new website isn’t substantially better than Zillow, then we are wasting our time and money. His list of features is not impressive, and no one is going to leave Zillow – consumers or agents – unless he has a spectacular idea up his sleeve.
Having our own portal is a good idea and within reach if every agent chips in a few bucks. Are there enough who care? Most will assume it is a duplication of the MLS and not really needed.
But the reason we need it is because having our own portal would help create the ultimate club for agents. Let’s build the portal outside of the N.A.R. and other top-heavy administrative bodies that suck down profits yet provide little if any benefits to agents themselves.
You would think groups like N.A.R., C.A.R., Zillow, big brokerages, etc., provide some structure for the industry, but they don’t. Yes, there are rules, but nobody enforces them. Brokers who are supposed to be supervising their agents will look the other way if it means making more commissions.
We don’t even need rules – an agent’s reputation among their fellow agents is enough to keep them in line. The rule most broken is the sharing of listings with fellow agents, but that’s been abused for so long that most agents don’t remember signing that form when they joined the MLS. We will have to live with single agency (aka dual agency for now), but it is already upon us anyway.
More of the upstart companies are choosing to advertise on radio and TV, and distorting the truth is widespread. If we eliminate all the unnecessary money-grubbing entities, be honest with ourselves and the public about the (no) rules, take the gloves off and fight it out with our fellow agents for the business while cooperating on our own powerful portal, then the best agents would survive – which is ultimately what the consumers deserve.
Thanks daytrip for sending this in – a surprising verdict, and if it wasn’t such a high ticket price, it may not have gone this way:
MSNBC host and former ad exec Donny Deutsch scammed a real estate broker out of a $1.2 million commission in the sale of Deutsch’s $30 million Hamptons home, a Manhattan judge seethes in new court papers.
Justice Charles Ramos says Deutsch’s lawyer was acting on his client’s behalf when Sotheby’s broker Edward Petrie was schemed out of his 4 percent commission, The Post’s Julia Marsh reports.
Petrie had brought a potential buyer, LA hedge funder Howard Marks, by Deutsch’s Tyson Lane home in 2010.
After Deutsch realized he knew Marks, he went behind Petrie’s back and brokered the sale privately to avoid the fee, Petrie claimed.
“This court considers that and refusal to acknowledge [Petrie] as the broker to be marks of dishonesty and greed,” Ramos writes in the Oct. 23 decision awarding Petrie’s employer, Sotheby’s, $1.2 million.
“Both characteristics are particularly unbecoming when exhibited by those blessed with great wealth,” the judge scolds.
A representative for Deutsch says, “Mr. Deutsch is shocked and outraged by this ruling, which is wrong based on law and fact. The ruling was based on the Sotheby’s broker’s contention that Mr. Deutsch agreed to a 4% commission arrangement. This is an outright and absolute lie. There was no such agreement, neither verbal nor written, and internal Sotheby’s email communications confirm this. Mr. Deutsch will vigorously defend his position in court and is very confident this decision will be reversed on appeal.”
Notorious Rob has a series of posts about the new CEO for the National Association of Realtors, and the future of the realtor industry. The interesting part is that the current president of the N.A.R. responded, which only brought up more questions.
The first two posts get into how Bob Goldberg became C.E.O. But the post linked above could be a catalyst for change. Hopefully the N.A.R. folks are listening, and are serious about doing something to help agents!
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