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Opinion Editorials

Syndication, listing agreements, omissions mislead property owners

You really cannot call it a contract if the contract does not describe exactly the service provided by the broker to the listing client. In my humble opinion it’s misleading to the consumer, and the inept description is intentional.

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The root of the debate: listing agreements

I’m not sure how your listing agreements read in your neck of the woods, but in Texas, the listing agreement really goes nowhere in describing what listing syndication is, in fact, it’s roughly one line that essentially says you will or won’t list the property for sale in the multiple listing service (MLS). Now I don’t know about you, but sitting in the seat of the listing client, I’ve shopped you as a Realtor listing agent, and seen advertisements across a broad spectrum of websites that promote the benefit of listing via the MLS, which in most cases includes promotional material expounding that the listing will be seen on Realtor.com, Zillow, and others.

As a property owner, by the verbiage regarding the MLS used by the industry on websites across the nation, I have a reasonable expectation that a Realtor will promote my property online across the broad spectrum of sites that advertise properties.

How could I possibly make this assertion? Common sense. Most Realtors don’t know the difference between IDX, syndication, VOW, etc. – how would we expect a property owner to understand the difference? So why would Realtors’ listing agreements fall so short in contractually spelling out exactly what internet display means to the listing client? You really cannot call it a contract if the contract does not describe exactly the service provided by the broker to the listing client. In my humble opinion it’s misleading to the consumer, and the inept description is intentional.

The debate belongs between Realtors’ and their clients

Why intentional? Because omission of the facts is misleading, and on the surface, the listing Realtor and Broker want to decide how they market the property and the level of effort (dollars spent) they’ll invest to market the property and as they see fit. But it goes even deeper than that. Truth be told, full disclosure at the time of listing as to how the property will be listed is the lynch pin to the entire syndication debacle.

Full disclosure to the property owner at the point of agreement would force a full understanding that the Broker claims full ownership of images, descriptions, and other intellectual property and intends to copyright said material. It would also force the full disclosure as to the Brokers’ intention in regards to sharing the data and with whom, and it would even further give the consumer the option to say no thank you and shop for a listing agent that will fully and openly share their property for sale with anyone who wishes to promote it for pay or for free. Additionally, consumers should know up front if a broker is directly benefiting financially by choosing one third party listing site over another, especially if limiting exposure could cost the client money in the form of more days on market.

Ultimately, this is a fight a consumer would win as their primary objective is to actually sell the property, as well as the tendency of many courts to side with consumer choice and transparency, so why not just end this short-sighted practice now?

Disclosing intentions, being clear with clients

By fully describing syndication, and your intentions on sharing (or not sharing), Brokers ultimately put in writing that they have fully disclosed to the consumer their options. If the property owner does not agree with the broker’s intentions, they can negotiate or walk, or the broker can walk without negotiation. The consumer has a right to fully understand at the time of agreement whether they’ll see their property on Trulia or not, and actually agree to it – or not.

It’s all pretty simple, and no soaring rhetoric is needed to explain why this is such a simple stupid solution to a problem of ignorance (real or feigned) that leaves the property owner ignorant, which is ultimately a violation of a Realtor’s fiduciary duties. I’m pretty sure that during the life of the listing agreement, the property owner might like a say in who owns the data and define who exactly is in charge of how their property is marketed. If Facebook has to disclose how they will use consumer data, so should Brokers, whether it pertains to the period before, during, or after a listing agreement – and it begins with the consumer understanding these facts at the time of agreement execution.

A listing agent may disclose in their listing presentation the final destination of all listing data, but does it conflict with the broker’s plan, or the local listing agreement’s verbiage? None of this was a major issue until brokers themselves began publicly pulling out of IDX, MLSs, and the like, so now that brokers have made it a big deal, it is time to disclose to consumers the details of listing data at the same level of detail that is disclosed about the properties themselves, and that begins with detailed syndication disclosures within the listing agreement.

So, will the industry have the balls to take action on its own?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Eric Bramlett

    March 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Excellent editorial. No matter who claims to own the content, it’s ultimately the consumer’s property, who should ultimately decide how and where it’s advertised.

  2. Jeff Brown

    March 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Whenever I’ve mentored young/new agents, I’ve told them that if the owner knew how to sell their property quickly, and for the highest possible price, they wouldn’t be interviewing agents in the first place.

    So now they’re the arbiters of what works?

    Pick one, guys. I differ with what most of what I hear and read on this and related topics. I understand the differing viewpoints, but disagree.

    Full disclosure is fine, and should always be practiced, both to the letter AND spirit of the law, and common sense.

    People hire professionals to do jobs for which they consider themselves unqualified. There are rare exceptions, but they tend to prove the rule. Words mean things. Unqualified is unqualified. Our clients come to us expecting that we know far more than they do about what they need done.

    This is no different than when I was still in the house side of the business, back in the early 70s.

    Almost guaranteed during a listing presentation was the question, “Will you be holding open houses?” My answer varied, depending upon the neighborhood and other factors. But, I ALWAYS showed them research empirically demonstrating how woefully impotent open houses were in actually, you know, selling the house being held open.

    Whenever we call professionals for any reason, in any field, we do so to obtain results significantly superior to what we could produce ourselves. Sure, we may ask questions, but mostly to make ourselves feel better. Most of us, in reality, don’t even know many of the questions to ask, much less the answers. Heck, he best and brightest in our industry in large part as a result of consistently answering questions their clients never would’ve known to ask

    Most of us could study what professionals in other disciplines do for six months, yet still not know what they’ve forgotten.

    If the client is in charge of how the broker obtains the desired results, they don’t need a broker. Either that, or they don’t need a broker who is so weak they’d allow it.

    Again, differing viewpoints. There’s clearly room for all of ’em.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      I think all of that is the truth, just put it in writing so we all know the client made the decisions, other wise you’re opening up a whole new can of worms. The realtor can only advise, not decide.

    • Eric Bramlett

      March 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Jeff –

      The Texas promulgated listing form has a section for “will/won’t submit to MLS” and a section for BAC offered. It could be argued that these are unnecessary – just do whatever it takes to sell the dang house. However, these items are so important to the public that they’re explicitly listed on the contract.

      Since many listing agents feel it’s in their best interest (and not necessarily in the clients’ best interest) to forego submitting to IDX, I agree with Benn that it’s in the clients’ best interest for this to be outlined in the contract.

      • Jeff Brown

        March 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm

        Hey Eric — I understand the thinking there.

        “However, these items are so important to the public that they’re explicitly listed on the contract.”

        It was very important to ‘the public’ back in the day for the agent to hold open houses too, as I mentioned earlier. Never mind that it was, ironically, one of the top marketing tools for the agent to secure other listings in the area. Or that most of the time the majority of those who showed up were neighbors.

        Again, though I think this is disclosure/transparency run amok, I get the thinking/intentions behind it. Pretty soon agents will begin to realize who is the pro, and who is the amateur. Maybe I’m just a 60 year old broker who simply refuses to knuckle under whenever the pendulum swings back to the tail wagging the dog.

  3. Jeff Brown

    March 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Amen, Brother Benn. Agreed.

  4. Kent Simpson

    March 3, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    There are quite a few brokerages that have “house” disclosures for different things i.e: having an interest in a mortgage brokerage or escrow company. I think we’ll soon see disclosures pertaining to internet marketing avenues begin cropping up here & there as we go along. Some will just add it to the pile of required documents while others will use it as a marketing tool to “show separation from the pack.”

    Nevertheless, a disclosure is only as good as the agent explaining it – some will get it while others refuse or fail to understand the nature of why there is a disclosure in the first place.

  5. Jodie Carpine

    March 3, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    I agree. My CMA always include a market plan which details the sites the listing will be sent to!

  6. David Pylyp

    March 3, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Interesting debate. Our Ontario Canada forms do indeed say distribute to Internet portals, mls. That would imply that the Broker indeed can do as they wish.

    What will your side of the border do with the syndication debate?

    David Pylyp
    Living in Toronto

  7. Jim Olenbush

    March 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    If you list a home in Austin MLS and put “Owner Name Withheld” in the owner field, the Austin Board of Realtors will call and demand that you send written authorization from the seller that they do not want their name in the MLS.

    On the other hand, if you withdraw all of your listings from “Internet Display” which includes public websites and the IDX data feed, there is no requirement to obtain the written consent of the sellers. It doesn’t make any sense.

  8. Bob Hertzog

    March 4, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Very interesting perspective. I can tell you that sellers expect their home to be listed in as many places as possible, and I could see this type of disclosure become an issue for those that have decided to “take their ball and go home”. Awesome post!

  9. Doug Miller

    March 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Well written article. What isn’t mentioned is the merits of a class action lawsuit in this situation. Think about it this way – when a broker engages in self-dealing it is akin to theft by swindle. If the broker has eliminated syndication as a marketing option for their sellers in order to increase the chances of double dipping, does that create a viable cause of action? What if the sellers are harmed by the decrease in market exposure? Typically damages in a self-dealing case are automatic forfeiture of fees earned.

    The idea that explaining syndication to clients is, “disclosure/transparency run amok” is absurd. Listing brokers who don’t have a decent marketing plan attached to their listing contract shouldn’t be working with clients. Consumers deserve better.

    I am the Executive Director of a non-profit dedicated to consumerism in real estate. We just covered this topic on our website and side with the author of this article.

  10. Jeff Brown

    March 5, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Hey Doug — Consumers deserve honest work, by an agent with solid integrity, and high character. Beyond that they deserve the results for which they hired the agent.

    Absurd? That’s an opinion. Watch how you’re throwing those words around. I was wondering who’d been elected the all knowing arbiter of everything moral. Thanks

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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