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Code of Ethics Case Studies

Case #1-15: Obligation to Advise Client on Market Value

Client A went from his hotel to REALTOR® B's office and advised that he formerly lived in the community, and had kept his home as an income property after he moved away. The house had been vacant for several months and he had decided to sell it. He asked if REALTOR® B could drive him to look at it. As they inspected it, Client A stated that he would be happy to get $80,000 for it. REALTOR® B listed it at that price and after a few days it was sold to Buyer C.

Six months later, Client A was in town again. Hoping to recover a box of old photographs he had left in the attic, he called on Buyer C, whom he had met at settlement. When he arrived he found that Buyer D then lived in the house. He expressed some surprise that Buyer C had sold it so soon, and learned that Buyer D paid $140,000 for it. Astonished, Client A then made some inquiries as to the market values and learned that he had grossly under priced his house when listing it with REALTOR® B. He went to the Board of REALTORS® office and filed a complaint against REALTOR® B charging him with unethical conduct in not having advised him as to the property's fair market value.

At the hearing, REALTOR® B's defense was that he had not been asked to put a price on the house, but had accepted agency on the basis of a price set by the client; that the client had stated he "would be happy" to get $80,000 for it; that he was glad to get a listing that would move quickly in the market; that he had done nothing unethical since he had not bought it himself; and that while he had honestly pointed out to the buyer that the house was a bargain, he had made no effort to induce relatives or business associates to buy it.

On questioning, he conceded that after looking at the house with Client A, he realized the property was being listed at about half its fair market value, but insisted that was his client's business; that different owners have different reasons for selling and pricing their property, but acknowledged that Client A had not indicated that he needed a quick sale or that he would make any price concession.

The Hearing Panel pointed out that brokers have no hesitation in advising clients that properties are overpriced when this is the case, and they are obligated to be equally candid in providing their best judgment to clients when properties being offered for sale are obviously underpriced.

Based on your understanding of the Code of Ethics Article 1, what do you think the hearing panel concluded? Show Answer