Show Common Sense When Showing Property

Leaving buyer clients alone in a home could be grounds for an ethics complaint.
Senior snoozing on porch

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Q: My seller client came home from work a little early last week, and the agent who was showing her house was sitting on her front porch swing on the phone. My client knew the house was being shown that day so assumed he was waiting for the buyers to show up. But the agent told her the buyers were in the house by themselves. He said he wanted to give them a little privacy to discuss purchasing the house, and he felt positive they would make an offer. My seller is not happy about the situation. I agree that we should stay with our clients while viewing homes, and I want to file a complaint. But should I cite Code of Ethics Standard of Practice 1-16 or 3-9?

A: If the agent conducting the showing had been the listing agent, or a representative of the listing agent’s firm, then Article 1 would have been the appropriate article to cite. However, from your question, it sounds like the showing agent was a cooperating agent. In that case, Article 3 would be the proper article to cite. 

Article 1 of the Code of Ethics addresses the primary ethical duty REALTORS® owe to protect and promote the interests of their client. Standard of Practice 1-16 states: “REALTORS® shall not access or use, or permit or enable others to access or use, listed or managed property on terms or conditions other than those authorized by the owner or seller.” A violation then would involve an agent of the seller or owner accessing or using their client’s property, or allowing others to do so, on terms other than those agreed upon by their client. 

Article 3 addresses the ethical duties of REALTORS® when cooperating with other brokers. Standard of Practice 3-9 states: “REALTORS® shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or the seller.” A violation would involve a cooperating agent accessing or allowing access to a property on terms other than those agreed upon by the owner or seller and their listing agent.

Note: While the Code of Ethics establishes obligations that may be higher than those mandated by law, in any instance where the Code of Ethics and the law conflict, the obligations of the law must take precedence.