Code of Ethics Case Studies
Case 1-28: Disclosure of Existence of Offers to Prospective Purchasers
Seller S listed her home for sale with REALTOR® B. The property was priced reasonably and REALTOR® B was confident it would sell quickly. The listing agreement included the seller's authorization for publication in the MLS and authority to disclose the existence of offers to prospective purchasers.
Within days, REALTOR® B had shown the property to several prospective purchasers and one of them, Buyer Z, wrote a purchase offer at close to the asking price.
REALTOR® B called Seller S to make an appointment to present the offer. After hanging up with Seller S, REALTOR® B received another call, this time from REALTOR® A. REALTOR® A explained that he represented a buyer who was interested in making an offer on Seller S's property. REALTOR® A explained that while his buyer-client was quite interested in the property, price was also a concern. He asked REALTOR® B if there were other offers on the property, indicating that his buyer-client would likely make a higher offer if there were competing offers on the table. REALTOR® B responded telling REALTOR® A, "That's confidential information. Please tell your client to make his best offer."
Taken aback by REALTOR® B's comments, REALTOR® A shared them with his buyer-client, who chose not to make an offer and instead pursued other properties.
Buyer Z's offer was accepted by Seller S later that evening and, sometime later, the transaction was closed.
Several months afterward, Seller S and REALTOR® A met at a social event. REALTOR® A related his conversation with REALTOR® B. Seller S asked REALTOR® A if he thought that REALTOR® A's buyer-client would have made an offer on Seller S's home absent REALTOR® B's refusal to disclose whether there were other offers pending. REALTOR® A responded that it was impossible to tell for certain, but his buyer-client had certainly not been favorably impressed by REALTOR® B's response to a seemingly routine question.
Seller S subsequently filed an ethics complaint against REALTOR® B alleging violation of Article 1 as interpreted by Standard of Practice 1-15. He noted that he had clearly authorized REALTOR® B to disclose to buyers and cooperating brokers the existence of pending offers and that REALTOR® B's arbitrary refusal to share information he was authorized to share could have been the reason, or part of the reason, why REALTOR® A's client had chosen not to make an offer on Seller S's home.
REALTOR® B defended his actions indicating that while he agreed that he had an obligation to promote Seller S's interests, his obligation to REALTOR® A and to REALTOR® A's buyer-client was simply to be honest. He had not, in any fashion, misrepresented the availability of Seller S's property. Rather, he had simply told REALTOR® A to encourage his client to make her best offer. "I'm not required to turn every sale into an auction, am I?" he asked. "I feel I treated all parties honestly and fairly," he concluded.
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