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False Statements about “Coming Soon” can result in discipline

By Peg Ritenour, OAR Vice President of Legal Services/Administration

The OAR Legal Assistance Hotline receives an array of real estate-related legal questions — including license law issues, disclosure, contract law, ethics and commission problems, among others. In an effort to help you work within the law, our “Legally Speaking” series spotlights some of the timely questions that are being asked by REALTORS. This explores potential pitfalls caused by “Coming Soon” signage…

Q: I represent  buyers who called me about a house with a “Coming Soon” sign that they are extremely interested in seeing. When I contacted the listing agent I was told it would not be ready to be shown for a couple of weeks. I impressed upon the listing agent that my buyers were well qualified and that they wanted to see the property as soon as it was ready to be shown. About a week later I happened to be driving by the house and saw a “Sale Pending” sign in the yard. I have since found out that the listing agent sold it to a buyer he represents. My buyer is furious, feeling that the listing agent lied about the property not being available to be shown and I’m not too happy either because I lost out on a potential sale. Is there anything I can do?

A: This scenario represents the most common complaint about “Coming Soon” signs. Listing agents who represent to other REALTORS or buyers that the property is not available to be shown but show it to their own buyers could face both ethical and legal challenges. First, it may be alleged that the agent violated Standard of Practice 3-8 of the NAR Code of Ethics, which provides that “REALTORS shall not misrepresent the availability of access to show…a listed property.” Such a complaint would be handled through the Professional Standards process at the Local Board/Association of REALTORS.

A similar allegation could also be filed with the Ohio Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing. If it is proven that the listing agent lied about the availability of the property to be shown, the agent could possibly be disciplined by the Ohio Real Estate Commission for making a knowing misrepresentation or for misconduct.

For a more detailed discussion about coming soon signs and pocket listings click here.

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