This petition is calling for states to enact legislation to prevent Multiple Listing Services, real estate agents and brokers from failing to disclose all of their financial incentives and misusing their client’s property listing information and photos for their own benefit without regard for their client’s best interests. Real estate agents must be held to the same level of accountability as other fiduciaries, who are required to act solely for the benefit of their clients in situations that require great trust, honesty and loyalty, such as helping them buy or sell a home. Over-reaching copyright claims made by the real estate industry are eliminating public access to information that would provide homebuyers and sellers nationwide with data to help them make more informed decisions when purchasing or selling real estate, as well as selecting a real estate agent to represent them. Please sign the petition to eliminate harmful industry tactics that cause harm to both homebuyers and sellers nationwide.
Misuse of Copyright & Failure to Disclose Financial Incentives:
Multiple Listing Services (MLS) and their members are not acting in the best interest of the consumer. They claim copyright on the listing information provided by the home owner when listing their home for sale. They then use these copyrights as the legal basis for disclosing incomplete and erroneous listing and transaction information, as well as completely withholding the financial incentives offered to their member agents and brokers for selling each home listed.
This misuse of copyright law has a direct effect on the bottom line for both the homebuyer and the seller. For example, when the MLS and/or broker claims copyright ownership of images of a property being listed by the home seller, the MLS and/or broker owns the images. This “ownership” means they have complete control as to where the property information can be displayed online. They selectively distribute this content to a select group of websites in order to serve their marketing and sales strategy instead of the best interest of their client. This practice by the MLS is harmful to the homebuyer as it limits the number of places that potential buyers can view the property online, reducing demand for the property and in turn, reducing the final sale price. Not only does the MLS claim copyright ownership of the property images, but it also claims copyright ownership on real estate agent transactional information. By eliminating public access to this information, homebuyers and sellers have no way to make an informed and educated decision when selecting a real estate agent. Facts such as the date a house was sold or the previous asking price are claimed to be copyrighted by the MLS and forbidden from display on the real estate websites that license this information. This practice, in effect, creates a “blackout” or ban on display of information helpful to the consumer, such as the past performance of real estate agents, which includes designating which properties that were formerly for sale were later withdrawn from the market.
Perhaps most concerning about the misuse of copyright law is that it is creating forced and uninformed dual representation situations among buyer and sellers across the nation. When the MLS copyrights an image of a home seller’s property, not only does it limit where it can appear, but it also limits what agents can be listed next to the property, typically requiring that only the selling agent be prominently listed on the seller’s property. When a homebuyer is interested in the property, they are directed to the selling agent potentially creating a dual representation situation that forces the seller into losing his exclusive representation to work with the buyer, and the buyer to forgo having an exclusive agent in order to purchase the property.
Dual representation arises when a real estate broker represents both the buyer and the seller. Two of the most important reasons that consumers hire a real estate agent are to negotiate price and terms. However, an agent representing both the buyer and the seller is legally prevented from negotiating price and terms. Unfortunately, this legality is not usually discussed until the consumer is under deadline to accept or refuse an offer to purchase their home, creating a bait-and-switch situation. Dual representation creates a conflictive relationship that strips buyers and sellers of service to a level that can best be described as abandonment. When a real estate agent engages in dual representation that agent is most likely not working to the advantage of the buyer or seller, but instead is working to receive both the buy and sell side commissions on the sale. This behavior is illegal in every other fiduciary profession except under the most extreme circumstances.
Brokers and real estate agents are neglecting their fiduciary duty to their clients and state regulations need to be put in place to protect consumers from these harmful practices. The misuse of copyright is not only unethical and harmful to the individual home seller and buyer, but it affects all home owners, as well as anyone aspiring to own their own home one day. When dual representation situations arise, the sellers typically end up accepting a lower price for their home than if they had maintained exclusive representation, driving down market prices for all home owners. This self-serving abandonment of fiduciary duty, in combination with MLS policies aimed to limit the availability of reliable real estate listing and broker/ agent performance information, undermines the financial integrity of the entire real estate market. Homeowners are still underwater and it is time that they are thrown a line before they drown. Please sign this petition to create state legislation that will put the needs of the American homeowner ahead of real estate agents, brokers and MLS.
Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate started this petition with a single signature, and now has 73 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.