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Code of Ethics Case Studies

#1-23: Claims of Guaranteed Savings

In response to REALTOR® A's advertisement, "Guaranteed Savings! Don't purchase without representation," Mr. and Mrs. B signed an exclusive buyer representation contract with REALTOR® A. After viewing several homes accompanied by REALTOR® A, Mr. and Mrs. B decided to make an offer on 1234 Hickory. The seller did not accept the offer. The listing broker explained to REALTOR® A that the sellers were well-situated, spent much of their time at their vacation home, and had determined not to accept anything other than the listed price. REALTOR® A, in turn, explained that to Mr. and Mrs. B. In response to their questions, he indicated that there appeared to be little point in making anything other than a full price offer but that he would be happy to continue to show them other properties. Mr. and Mrs. B responded that they were not interested in other properties and had decided to make a full price offer on the Hickory Street residence. They did and their offer was accepted.

Following closing, and after discussing their transaction with friends, they wrote a letter to the Board of REALTORS® indicating that while they were pleased with the service provided by REALTOR® A, they thought that his claim of "guaranteed savings" was an exaggeration. After obtaining and reviewing a copy of the Code of Ethics, they filed a formal complaint alleging that Article 1, as interpreted by Standard of Practice 1-4, had been violated.

At the hearing, REALTOR® A defended his advertisement on the basis that as a buyer's agent he was able to aggressively negotiate purchase agreements on behalf of his clients whereas the listing broker or subagents, with their loyalty to the seller, could not. He also indicated that, in many instances, his buyer clients paid less, often substantially less, than buyers dealing through listing brokers, subagents, or even through other buyer agents. However, in response to questioning by Mr. B's attorney, REALTOR® A acknowledged that, while savings were particularly in cases where the seller was determined to receive full price. "But I offered to show them other properties and, if we looked long enough, I am sure I could have found them a bargain," offered REALTOR® A in his defense.

The Hearing Panel disagreed with REALTOR® A's reasoning, concluding that while savings might be possible, REALTOR® A had been unable to demonstrate them in every instance and that this guarantee of savings was misleading. Consequently, his advertisement was in violation of Article 1.