Over-aggressive agent harassment

over-aggressive agent
When Over Aggressive Agents Abuse Technology (inforgraphic from nar.realtor)

Something has happened in the last few years where unsolicited phone calls and text messages have hit critical mass. It’s bad enough that unscrupulous individuals take advantage of technologies, such as phone number spoofing, to scam consumers. But it’s not a good sign for an industry when “professionals” abuse technology without regard to the law. You’re not alone if you’re feeling harassed by over-aggressive real estate agents who place multiple unsolicited calls and texts daily. There is a way to stop the over-aggressive agent calling and texting harassment.

When over-aggressive real estate agents abuse technology

Like other industries, technology has been integral in evolving the business of real estate in the last twenty years.  As a result of proper application, consumers are empowered.  However, some technologies are abused by real estate agents.  The combination of aggressive sales tactics and technology can sometimes go over the line and become harassment.  Recent lawsuits highlight alleged abuse of technology by real estate agents.

A recent class action lawsuit filed in California is taking on real estate agents who “cold call.”  Realtor Magazine (Cold Calling in Real Estate Under Fire in New Lawsuit; magazine.realtor; April 8, 2019) reported that the suit originated from a request for the defendant brokerage to stop directing their agents to make unsolicited calls.  The suit alleges that calling without consent violates the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and unsolicited auto-dialer calls violate the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry.

The plaintiff alleges that he received unsolicited calls from multiple agents affiliated with the same brokerage to his cell phone, which is listed with the National Do Not Call Registry.  The calls solicited to re-list his home after it did not sell.  Although it’s sometimes easy to find a phone number (typically a land line) associated with a property, the plaintiff said his cell phone was not associated with the property listing in any way. 

Two other lawsuits filed earlier this month in Florida focus on unsolicited texting.  In one, the plaintiff alleges they received thousands of unsolicited text messages, violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, advertising homes for sale.  The other alleges the use unsolicited texting to find potential home sellers.

Haru Coryne, for the Real Deal, reported that the suits are really about the abuse of auto-dialer technology that transmits “thousands” of text messages from a spoofed local number (Unsubscribe! Resi brokerages sued over text message spam; therealdeal.com; April 4, 2019).  The founder of a popular real estate technology platform acknowledged to Coryne that real estate agents who use these technologies without knowing the law can get into trouble.  He further stated, “A typical real estate agent will have five, six, seven programs, probably never took the time to see what the law is. [But] Just because they offer it doesn’t mean you can abuse it.  It’s like eating candy and wondering why you’re getting fat. You can’t take technology and abuse it and wonder why you’re getting sued.”

There are many platforms selling these services to real estate agents.  New technologies mine data (including emails and phone numbers) and “communicate” with consumers (including internet auto-dialers).  There are several popular services that sell contact information (including cell phone and email) for expired listings and Sale by Owner.  The data can be used in conjunction with text/email broadcasting, phone number spoofing, and auto-dialers.  Many consumers feel harassed by the over-aggressive agent because they are bombarded with auto-dialers, texts, and emails, after opting-out or asking the agent to stop.

Stopping the over-aggressive agent

If you want to stop unsolicited calls and texts from the over-aggressive agent, simply opt-out. If they continue, contact the agent. Contacting the agent should put an end to the unsolicited communication. However, you may have to call the agent’s broker. If, in the slight chance, you continue to be bombarded with unsolicited communication after opting out and contacting the agent’s broker, you may have to consult an attorney.

This can be a watershed moment for the industry to educate consumers about professional Realtors and reign in the “bad actors.”  The National Association of Realtors (nar.realtor) and local Realtor associations advocate for the responsible use of technologies and cold calling.  With regard to telemarketing, the NAR states, “There’s no fine line or gray area: There are laws you must not break. But you still have a lot of flexibility on the right side of the law.” 

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/04/15/over-aggressive-agent-harassment/

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Real estate tin men

real estate tin men
Beware the real estate tin men (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

Beware the Real Estate Tin Men!  “Tin men” was a term used to describe con-artists after the 1987 Barrie Levinson movie by the same name became a nationwide hit.  The movie was about aluminum siding salesmen who did whatever they could to sell home improvements in 1963 Baltimore.  The story revealed how everyday “schnooks” created the façade of a successful sales person, as well as revealing their unscrupulous sales tactics.  The main characters are flawed and likable, so much so that you’re rooting for them as they are cross-examined at their MHIC license hearing.

Modern versions of tin men still exist.  They exist in all professions.  They are constantly refining their tactics to get your business. They will often tell you what you want to hear.

When it comes to buying and selling a home, beware of the real estate tin men!  These are agents who will say and do almost anything for your business.

Many real estate agents still use tin men tactics.  Real estate sales is difficult and many agents will do whatever they can to get a leg up on their competition and a chance at a sales commission.  There is a subculture in the industry that is focused on pushing the ethical envelope to make money.  This philosophy is spread by “gurus” and coaches who teach sales tactics, persuasion, and income strategies.

Unlike the world of 1963, when a salesman could easily lie to make the sale, today’s easy flow of information makes it unlikely that a real estate agent would flat-out lie.  The internet has created a savvy and knowledgeable consumer by allowing easy authentication of information.  However, the internet has not changed the real estate agent’s reputation for bending the truth, otherwise known as “puffery.”

Rapport is often built on appearances.  Like the 1960’s tin men, many real estate agents also employ smoke and mirrors to help them appear successful.  Although some still drive cars and dress beyond their means to “fake it,” many agents rely on technology for their trickery.  The art of deception is widely used by agents who dare to manipulate data.  Many real estate agents, who supervise other agents, take credit for MLS sales they had nothing to do with so as to appear they have many more sales (than they actually do).  Likewise, many agents pay for fake internet reviews.  Although many platforms screen for false reviews, agents continue to find ways to get fake 5-star reviews on websites, including incentivizing unsolicited otherwise 5-star reviews from clients.

Many real estate agents rely on gimmicks as a means of getting business.  A popular agent promotion is “I will buy your home if it doesn’t sell.”  The reality is that although the agent may offer to buy your home if they can’t sell it, the conditions actually don’t make it a viable option.  Another oversold gimmick is “cutting-edge” marketing.  The promise of cutting-edge marketing used to mean advanced and new.  However, today cutting-edge real estate marketing is overshadowed by the truth that homes are primarily viewed on real estate internet portals, such as Zillow (all MLS listings are posted to these portals).

Most Realtors are ethical and do the right thing.  A recent article by Jim Dalrymple II even touts broker (and agent) humility as the “new method” and business model (Humility, not arrogance, is the new real estate leadership trend; inman.com; October 17, 2017).  And although real estate agents have increasingly been leaning towards transparency and authenticity, you should still beware of tin men.

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/10/25/real-estate-tin-men/

By Dan Krell.          Copyright © 2018.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Confidential information

confidential information
Keeping your information confidential (infographic from larealtors.org)

A real estate agent, who allegedly represented Paul Manafort’s family, recently asserted his fiduciary privilege to avoid appearing in front of a grand jury.  However, as Politico reported, his efforts were thwarted by a judicial opinion, and subsequently reported to the grand jury.  But can confidential information be disclosed?

A fiduciary is generally described as someone who acts as a custodian of their client’s rights and/or assets.  The fiduciary has a responsibility to act with honesty and integrity, as well as act in their client’s best interest and not exert influence or pressure on their client for their own or others interests.

Both the National Association of Realtors and the Annotated Code of Maryland (COMAR) reference directly and indirectly a real estate agent’s fiduciary obligation and handling confidential information.  The NAR Code of Ethics Standard of Practice 11-2 states that a Realtor (when acting as an agent or subagent) has “the obligations of a fiduciary.”  COMAR states about the brokerage relationship (MD BUSINESS OCCUPATIONS AND PROFESSIONS Code Ann. § 17-534):

Except as otherwise provided by this title or another law, keep confidential all personal and financial information received from the client during the course of the brokerage relationship and any other information that the client requests during the brokerage relationship to be kept confidential, unless (i) the client consents in writing to the disclosure of the information; or (ii) ) the information becomes public from a source other than the licensee.

Of course, all jurisdictions are different, having their own laws and customs that govern the actions of real estate agents.  Manafort’s alleged real estate agent claimed a fiduciary privilege under the DC and VA real estate statutes, which is similar to Maryland’s.  However, in a recently unsealed Memorandum Opinion (www.dcd.uscourts.gov/unsealed-opinions-sealed-cases), Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the US District Court for DC believes that real estate agents don’t have an “absolute duty of confidentiality.”  She opined that a real estate agent is not excused from complying with an obligation to respond to a grand jury.  But what about confidential information?

Judge Howell wrote:

The respondents take the position that a court order compelling compliance with federal grand jury subpoena is required to overcome the confidentiality protection afforded to real estate brokerage records under District of Columbia and Virginia law. They rely on identical provisions of District of Columbia and Virginia statutes that require a real estate licensee engaged by a buyer, such as the Clients, to ‘[m]aintain confidentiality of all personal and financial information received from the client during the brokerage relationship and any other information that the client requests during the brokerage relationship be maintained confidential unless otherwise provided by law or the buyer consents in writing to the release of such information.’ D.C. Code § 42-1703(b)(1)(C); Va. Code § 54.1-2132(A)(3) (emphasis added). The government does not dispute that these statutes extend confidential treatment to the subpoenaed information, but argues that ‘the laws do not impose an absolute duty of confidentiality on real estate agents’ or excuse compliance with ‘a legal obligation—enforceable by a federal court—to respond to the grand jury’s request for documents, testimony, or both.’”

A real estate agent’s fiduciary obligation and handling confidential information is not taken lightly.  Thankfully, most real estate agents don’t face a grand jury subpoena.  However, during the course of daily business, a real estate agent does have an obligation (whether by NAR Code of Ethics, their local statute, or both) of keeping their client’s personal and financial information confidential.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2017/11/04/revealing-confidential-information/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Real estate BS detector

real estate BS detector
Become a real estate BS detector (infographic from visual.ly)

DARPA issued a recent request for information seeking ideas about how to create automated capabilities to assign “Confidence Levels” to scientific studies, claims, hypotheses, conclusions, models, and/or theories.  In other words, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to create a BS detector.  First reported by Adam Rogers for WIRED (Darpa Wants to Build a BS Detector for Science; wired.com; July 30, 2017), DARPA doesn’t look at it as rooting out “BS” but rather establishing the what, why, and how scientists know stuff. Imagine how this could be applied as a real estate BS detector!

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s stated mission on their website is “to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security.”  So, chances are that if they are able to devise a real working BS detector, you won’t know about it.

When it comes to real estate, people sometimes bend the truth.  Additionally, real estate agents are known for “puffery” and are generally not trusted because of the salesy techniques they employ.  But having a real estate BS detector would be huge breakthrough!  Imagine being able to weed through the BS and nonsense that many real estate agents spout when they are clearly trying to sell.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to check your real estate BS detector, when an agent is pontificating about a house or themselves, to know if the agent is wasting your time?  Unfortunately, the real estate BS detector is not a real device.  However, there are strategies to help you detect real estate BS.

“Luke, trust your feelings.”  Ok, there’s no such thing as a Jedi, but empirical research has demonstrated that intuition can be used to weed out lies.  Many say they rely on their gut instincts to protect themselves.  But the truth is that many ignore or don’t trust their intuition because the rational mind takes over and dominates.  Increasing your intuition could help you detect the real estate BS and prepare for (and maybe prevent) regretful situations.  Becoming more aware about your “gut feeling” can increase your intuition.

Being cynical can also help detect real estate BS.  Don’t be rude of course, but questioning what others say helps you clarify and understand them at a higher level.  It can also reveal untruths.  Question all claims and over-the-top statements.  For example, if you’re dealing with a real estate agent, ask for support to any assertion they make about themselves or their services.  Ask to speak to their references.  Also, ask for additional information that support their opinions on the housing market and deciding on a price to sell or buy a home.

Do your due diligence to discover real estate BS.  After asking questions, take what others say or do during the real estate transaction at face value and take it upon yourself to verify it.  It can save you a headache down the road.  It’s easy to verify many aspects of the real estate transaction, because many local jurisdictions have their databases online.  However, making a call or two to a helpful government employee is straightforward and can provide bonus information.  Verify licenses of real estate agents, loan officers, and even home contractors.  Verify permits of home improvements.  Verify the local schools and the home’s zoning.

Finally, don’t feel pressured to do anything.  The BS artist will make it seem as if you have to act immediately.  But if you are not comfortable with the situation or are not yet ready, take a pause.

By Dan Krell 
Copyright©2017

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2017/08/06/real-estate-bs-detector/

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Home listing syndication is big business

home listing syndication
Home listing syndication (infographic via trendmls.com)

Your home listing is a hot commodity!  Not just to home buyers looking to buy, but to those who buy and sell information on the internet.  MLS home listing information syndication is big business.

Much of what you see, hear, and read on TV, radio, and the internet is syndicated and distributed through a broad network of affiliated outlets.  The purpose is to have as large of an audience as possible.  The larger the audience, the larger the advertising revenue.  Syndicating and distributing media content has been around for a very long time, and has been very a lucrative industry for those involved.

Internet syndication is no different and has become sophisticated, such that websites will pay for licensed content.  The content attracts visitors and generates revenue via ads and/or pay-per-click.  Needless to say, internet syndication has developed to become a multi-billion-dollar industry.

When you think about making money in real estate, you probably think about buying and selling property, not the internet.  Most people don’t realize that real estate information generates $billions on the internet.  Real estate portals generate revenue by publishing content that attracts home buyers and sellers.  The sought after content, of course, is your home’s MLS listing.  Websites generate income by selling real estate and other professionals access to consumers who visit their sites to view your MLS listing.

You may not know this, but your home’s listing is copyright-protected by your agent’s Multiple Listing Service.  The content is licensed and syndicated to internet real estate portals and other publishers for a fee.  How much do websites pay for MLS licensed content?  Heck, you’d be hard pressed to find that information, much less acknowledgement that there is a fee paid at all!  And I suspect that information is not readily disclosed because consumers would be up in arms if they knew.

However, an article by Natalie Sherman appeared in the Baltimore Sun on January 27, 2015 (MRIS looks to partner with Zillow) gives a hint about the monetary relationship between MLS boards, syndicators and publishers.  Ms. Sherman wrote:

“Under the current system, Zillow pays to receive listings from Listhub.com, which has agreements with hundreds of multiple listing services, including MRIS, to provide syndication services to sites such as Zillow. Earlier this month, Zillow and Listhub said their existing deal would not be renewed.

A representative for Zillow, which has been working to establish more direct relationships with brokers and listing services for years, said a new deal would help keep the site more up to date.”

The article refers to the 2015 shakeup of real estate listing feeds to specific websites, such as Zillow.  At that time, Zillow sought direct deals with individual MLS boards, such as our local MRIS (now part of Bright MLS), to get MLS home listing feeds.

Chances are that you are unaware that the information about your home that is uploaded to the local MLS (including pictures of your home) become the property of the MLS.  Much less, you may not know that the information is licensed to others for a fee to be used on other websites.

Even though the MLS boards charge subscription fees to agents for the privilege of uploading and viewing content, they might argue that the fees generated by licensing and selling your information helps maintain the MLS system.  However, not disclosing this aspect of the real estate listing poses some ethical questions that must be addressed.

Of course, there are real estate brokers who have opted-out of syndication of their MLS listings.  These brokers want to retain control of  home listing information to ensure accuracy and maintain professionalism when presenting your home to the public.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.