Agent Medea Savvy was recently sanctioned by the Real Estate Commission of her state for advertising listings in her market area on Craigslist, a search website very popular with the public. The problem was that the listings Medea advertised were not her own or even her brokerage’s listings. They were listings of competing brokerages.
What went wrong? Why did Medea get in trouble when her own company’s website and her personal agent website were able to access listings from all the brokerages in the local MLS’s, including the very listings she had posted on Craigslist?
Madea had confused “broker reciprocity” with “syndication”.
Simply put, broker reciprocity is an agreement by MLS member brokerages to allow their listings to be displayed on the other member brokers’ websites (and their affiliated agents’ authorized websites) with proper attribution and formatting. This means that Broker A gives permission for his/her firm’s listings to be displayed on Broker B, C, D… Z’s company websites with a footnote stating, “Listing provided courtesy of Broker A.”
Brokers do not have to agree to allow their listings to be posted on competitors’ websites, but with the proper attribution, most see this as a valuable part of marketing the listing.
Broker “syndication” is the process of posting that brokerage’s MLS listings on public sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, HGTV and hundreds of other sites to attract prospective buyers. Brokerages often pay to syndicate their listings to these sites by allowing the sites, through an intermediary such as ListHub or eWebEngine, to “harvest” listing data from the MLS’s and feed that information to the public sites.
During syndication, the listing agent/broker’s contact info is pulled with the listing and displayed for a period of time. The dirty little secret for the most prominent sites is that, after that time period (six months on most), the agent/broker contact info quietly falls off and prospective buyers tend to contact the agents who have paid for ads on the site. NOTE: FMLS to the rescue on this by use of their new “Syndication Remarks” field which will embed the listing agent’s contact info in the listing forever.
Agents Sharing Listings
Some individual agents go beyond posting their listings on the MLS’s and the syndication sites selected by their brokerage and post their listings on additional sites, such as Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Interestingly, many agents have no clue which sites already host their listings and often submit duplicate information, confusing the public.
If agents consider “self-posting, they should certainly check the chosen site first to determine whether their brokerage has already posted the listing for them!
Ga. Real Estate Law
Syndication currently has no “rules” as far as content, accuracy or disclosure are concerned. HOWEVER, Ga. Real Estate License Law has plenty of rules which DO apply!
No listing can be posted without the written permission of the property owner (Exclusive Seller Listing Agreement) or the broker with whom the property is listed. This is where Medea Savvy went wrong; she posted competing brokers’ listings without their written permission.
All advertising must be approved by the broker. Again, Madea may have avoided trouble if she had informed her broker of her plans.
All properties advertised must include the listing agent’s name, company and company phone number. The LISTING AGENT’S, not Madea’s.
Content must never misrepresent the property or services offered and must present a true and correct picture, including a true and correct picture of who the actual listing brokerage may be.
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