I am a member of a couple of real estate groups on Facebook. Often I will peruse the thread and look at the discussions and questions. I like to see what big issues agents are talking about and, more so, the absurd comments and advice from others. It is many times like watching the blind lead the blind. If nothing else, it makes for a good laugh; however, today was a little different.
I came across a rather disturbing question, and even more disturbing was much of the advice. This agent asked, “How can I stop my buyer from wanting to see a property I do not want to show them? The listing agent is not offering enough commission to cover my cost.” Stunned into silence, I read the question at least three times. Dumbstruck, I researched the person and found she is a real agent in another state. From everything I could find out about her, this was a real question. I was shocked because she was looking for advice on how to break her fiduciary duty to her buyer.
In case you do not know, when you hire an agent, they have a fiduciary duty to you. This is a legal relationship of absolute trust and confidence. Here in Tennessee, these duties are not just moral or ethical but statutory law. As you can see, this agent was asking her colleagues how she could break the law. What is worse, out of the 46 replies, I only found a handful who told her what she was doing was criminal. For the most part, the replies she was getting supported her decision not to show her buyer the property. Again, I was gobsmacked. Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing?
I started going through the replies. One by one, I researched to find if that person was a real estate agent. I did not get to every reply but, out of the ten or so I looked up, everyone was real. Reply after reply; agents were applauding her decision. They were saying things like, “no one can make a living in this profession anymore.” Some went as far as bashing sellers with statements like, “Sellers are idiots if they think I will show a home with a low commission.” The whole time, I’m thinking to myself, this is bad, this is really bad.
Agents, let me be crystal clear with you. Your fiduciary duty of Loyalty mandates you to put your client’s interest above your own. Your fiduciary relationship is one of absolute trust and confidence. This means that you owe your client-specific legal duties. These duties are not just moral or ethical but, they are the law. Here in Tennessee, they are Common Law of Agency and statutory law. The duty of loyalty means you put your client’s interest above your own. This means above your own self-interest. This means above your compensation. You are legally obligated NOT to act in your own self-interest. You can not withhold showing a property because the seller or seller’s agent is not compensating you enough. If you withhold showing a property to your client because of offered compensation, you are breaking the law.