Coming Soon Do’s and Don’ts
by Hank Lerner, Esq., CDEI
Director, Law & Policy
Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®
There’s been a recent surge of confusion and angst over “coming soon” or other similar “pre-marketing” techniques. Brokers and agents need to remember that all marketing and advertising must abide by the same basic rules, so here are a few quick do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you’re looking at these listing strategies.
DON’T advertise without a listing contract.
The Realtor® Code of Ethics says that a broker can’t advertise a property without the consent of the seller client. The Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act (RELRA) goes even further and requires written consent to advertise a property.
Aside from getting permission to advertise the property, obtaining a full listing contract provides the broker with two additional protections. First, it protects your ability to get paid. Remember that RELRA says a broker can provide services to a consumer prior to signing an agency agreement, but that the broker is not “entitled to recover a fee, commission or other valuable consideration” without a compliant agreement.
Second, it protects your client relationship. Article 16 of the Code of Ethics prohibits other Realtors® from interfering with exclusive relationship agreements, but without the listing contract there’s nothing to protect.
In short, a “coming soon” sign without a listing contract is an offer to work for free, attached to a giant red flag pointing out a motivated seller who is up for grabs and not locked into an exclusive agreement.
DO submit the listing to the MLS…on time.
MLS rules generally require all listings to be submitted within a certain period of time. This rule kicks in once there’s a listing contract, regardless of when the property is going to be “actively” marketed through the MLS. If there’s going to be some delay in making the property fully available to all potential buyers and cooperating brokers, the listing broker needs to work with the MLS to figure out how to accommodate that within the existing rules. For example, if the listing isn’t to be publicly displayed for a certain period (an office exclusive), existing rules already allow for the listing to be submitted with a waiver signed by the seller. Just holding onto the listing until you’re ready to submit it isn’t an option.
DON’T misstate property availability
This may be one of the most common gripes we hear. “The listing says ‘no showings’ but I know the listing broker showed it to his own clients.” or “Her last three listings said all offers would be presented on Sunday, but the properties each went Pending on the prior Friday.”
Every MLS has a set of listing statuses with specific definitions and rules around them. It’s one thing to use sharp marketing practices that may help you and your client gain a real or perceived advantage in the market. But it’s another thing altogether to…y’know…lie. Misrepresenting property availability could end up as both an MLS rules violation and a potential Code of Ethics violation.
DON’T get cute
Brokers and agents get in trouble when they try to make up their own rules or be too ‘creative’ with the ones already on the books. At the end of the day, most reasonable marketing practices can be accommodated within the relevant laws/regulations/rules if you take the time to understand them rather than just ignoring them.