I had a conversation with a small-town broker last month where we discussed the ongoing concern regarding privacy legislation and real estate agents contacting expired listings with information gained through MLS.
In a nutshell, per my discussion with the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA), privacy legislation says that information can only be used for the purpose it was provided.
Since sellers do not provide their information for other agents to contact them to list, it cannot be used for such purposes (please note the appropriate level of government in your province is the final authority).
“This is a good example of the complexity of ethical dilemmas we often face in our day-to-day…”
Still, some agents are prepared to take the risk to contact these sellers with some success and often no or little repercussions.
Full disclosure: I am not completely a fan of privacy legislation extending to not contacting previous unsuccessful sellers, at least not a blanket ban. I understand the reasoning, though I feel it is overreach; more on that later.
This is a good example of the complexity of ethical dilemmas we often face in our day-to-day in this industry. To truly understand, we must ask who is affected, and we must apply moral reasoning.
In asking who is affected, we could say it directly affects both the consumer who values their privacy and the consumer who wants every opportunity to market their property and agents looking to pursue their businesses.
“…some consumers do not wish to be contacted by every agent in town, and we must respect that.”
To arrive at the right thing to do, moral reasoning requires that, in addition to analyzing how it affects us (which comes naturally), we must also look at how it affects others.
There are likely many clients who would like other agents to contact them as it would provide them with more options to choose from.
This works in our favour, so of course, we would support these people, but some consumers do not wish to be contacted by every agent in town, and we must respect that.
Finally, we as agents have a right to expect every ethical and legal opportunity to serve our marketplaces and, by doing so, earn a living.
“Whether we choose to see it or not, these kinds of questionable decisions affect us personally, the reputation of our industry and society as a whole.”
What to do?
Well, we could certainly do as some do and contact expired listings anyway, knowing that the risk-reward scenario may be in our favour.
But by doing so, we are disrespecting the rules and regulations, the rights of others who do not wish to be contacted, and the greater society by saying laws and ethics don’t apply to us.
As we hear so often these days, “XYZ company is committed to [insert appropriate right here], but [insert excuse here].” In other words, lip service; the company respects everyone’s right to whatever, as long as it doesn’t affect them.
Whether we choose to see it or not, these kinds of questionable decisions affect us personally, the reputation of our industry and society as a whole.
“In a world of ever-increasing invasions of our privacy, there must be a middle ground between privacy and doing business ethically and legally.”
Are there other ways to legally and ethically contact expired listings? There certainly are.
One method I have considered for some time, and RECA confirmed it would probably be seen favourably, is establishing a routine whereby we regularly drive a particular neighbourhood looking for signs coming up and coming down.
Nobody can say for sure until it is legally tested, but it is highly likely to be seen as an acceptable way to gather information on potential expired listings.
Coming full circle to my earlier comments about not fully being a fan of this aspect of privacy legislation, why not implement a checkbox on the listing document for sellers to determine if they wish other agents to be able to contact them after expiry?
In a world of ever-increasing invasions of our privacy, there must be a middle ground between privacy and doing business ethically and legally.
Maybe you have some different ideas? What does your regulator allow?
Gerald has been a licensed real estate agent for thirty years and an industry instructor for over twenty. He has served on several committees with the Realtors Association of Edmonton and on the Board of the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC) Edmonton chapter. He is also an ethics instructor for REIC nationally and enjoys family, various sports, and the outdoors. Check out his popular real estate podcast The Real World of Real Estate here.
In your article you wrote “why not implement a checkbox on the listing document for sellers to determine if they wish other agents to be able to contact them after expiry?”
There is such a checkbox, it’s input goes on the MLS Listing which is also on the Listing Agreement. This solves your above mentioned dilemna.
There is no such checkbox in Alberta as prospecting expireds is not allowed, hence the article
Same in our board BUT I really wonder how many agents respect it. And how long would it apply? Indefinitely?
Unfortunately most agents that do make these calls to expired listings are little concerned about the checkbox in the DO NOT CALL AFTER EXPRED CHECKBOX.. Most of the ones that call know well that this box has been checked and they’re not supposed to but they fully well but do it anyway and they know that they are a little or noconsequences. There should be a higher penalty or severe repercussions and until this happens nothing is going to change.
As the first commentor stated, in Ontario, there is such a checkbox, Last fall, I had a listing and when meeting the sellers and discussing the Yes Or No question as set out above, they eagerly initialed the NO box.
The property did not sell through we had two offers, we cancelled the listing with the view to bringing it to market this spring, which we have now done. Interestingly, the sellers informed when two agents contacted them about listing the property saying they had buyers. In both instances the sellers told the agents that the property would be coming to market and that they could bring their buyers when the property was on the market. We have been on the market since 10:00 A.M. on March 16th. Not to my surprise, I have not heard a peep from either agent.
Anyone want their names?
I see the same in our market place.These bunch of Agents call each and every expired listing. I had my own listing that expired and 2 of these agents called me. I did not appreciate that and i did think I will report them but i did not. But until all Agents take steps to report these Agents – our work place will remain the same.
In BC the tick box option has been in the provincial rules for years. It is now called a Privacy Notice, with the options to “Opt Out” of receiving contact from their Agent, the listing brokerage, other Agents, and also the local board that might do a survey. The fines are substantial for breaching these. The dilemma is whether or not the listing Agent fully explained what they are for, versus telling a seller to please initial here too.