How does a real estate agent protect their sellers and buyers from having their personal and private information available to the entitles that will abuse it?
Unfortunately, it's bigger than the real estate agent, please allow me to explain.
The source data of a real estate seller
Savvy real estate agents have learned a while ago to never offer up their home seller's phone number or email in an MLS listing.
That includes putting it, as we used to 5+ years ago, into the confidential remarks field of the multiple listing service real estate listing (MLS) input form.
Back before that time, most agents would have their sellers get contacted to have the home shown by the real estate agent conducting the showing.
In order to facilitate the showing of our home seller's real estate listing, we'd put the seller's contact number in the confidential remarks field in the multiple listing service input field.
There were certain guarantees at that time, which we assumed were in placed and enforced by the Board of Realtors or some other "higher power".
That was not true. To this day, there is no "overseer" that is able to enforce stealing and selling of a seller's personal and private information.
While the "confidential field" was for "agent eyes only", there are other people than agents allowed to be members of the MLS and to see the data as it's entered by the listing agent.
Before I get to deep into my rant, this comes up when a listing is canceled, expires or has a purposeful cancellation, where there is still a signed contract and one that is able to be enforced between the seller and their agent.
Some salespeople are way too hungry. So much so they will hunt without putting a single thought into if they should be following up with a phone number they paid for related to some home listing that expired or was canceled.
Dear Agent - think before you have your computer program or online robo-dialer start calling expired and canceled listings. Take a moment to review the list and to double-check it against the FDNC - Federal Do Not Call List to make sure you are violating the law.
Also, check the type of cancellation it is, or review the commentary on the expired listing MLS sheet. A good realtor will update the MLS comments in the confidential field in order to let the "afterthought" agents know why a listing expired, the intention and or why it was canceled.
Unfortunately, the seller's phone number does not have to have been entered into the MLS confidential remarks. There are data mining systems and companies that do that research for the agents and other corporations and individuals.
Don't be too hungry real estate agents
I don't call expired listings nor do I call canceled listings. I write information online about the real estate market. I write information about the type of market and changes that people need to know when they start to contemplate selling or buying real estate in the Santa Clarita Valley.
There are other systems in place that I do not use as well. There is a paid-for service that our Board of Realtors has for us agents to use that allows a company access to a home seller's personal information in order to schedule showings of their home.
I don't use it. Most agents don't and those who do are saying, "Hey, here is my seller's personal cell phone, go ahead, call them when someone wants to show their home."
So much falls through the cracks with the agents not being able to speak with the other agents wanting to show their seller's listings.
Without being able to schedule a showing of a home for sale with the actual listing agent, the buyer's agent does not get to ask if there are any offers in play? If there are, maybe counters are out and a deal is imminent? If that is the case there is going to be one angry home buyer if they happen to view the home for sale and love it!
Step up Board of Realtors
The National Association of Realtors - The California Association of Realtors and the Southland Regional Association of Realtors - Plus the Greater Antelope Valley Board of Realtors - I'm a member in good standing in all, this is your chance to make home sellers happy and to protect them from being spammed when their listing expires or cancels in your MLS database.
Agents could be sanctioned - There could be some enforceable disclosure that is added to the pile of paperwork we already provide for our seller's to sign.
This "document" would be enforceable and would require all parties to sign. The listing agent - their broker and the sales agent and their broker. Maybe the home seller(s) and homebuyer(s) could sign as well to show how serious the Boards of Realtors are to protect a person's personal and private information.
At this point, the data-mining companies would lose business and close their doors because the agents would not be able to take part in hiring them.
The tons of phone calls an expired listing would go to zero and that seller would be able to have quiet to reflect on why their home did not sell. Instead of the pitch by 50 agents stating, "Are you ready to hire the right agent."
Putting something enforceable in play, showing the home sellers that they don't have to fear any real estate agent calling them to play the high-pressure salesperson, would be very much appreciated.
How does this play out in the real world
We have a listing that did not sell within the three-month contract. We are headed into the holidays and will place the home on the market March of the following year.
The sellers are personal friends and they know why their home did not sell - it had everything to do about price.
They understand this and are happy with their selection of an agent and know their agent did everything they could to market, advertise and publicize their home for sale. They had a ton of showings, one offer, but no deal was able to come together.
The sellers were informed that none of their personal information was placed online. All showings were done via direct communication between other agents and their agent.
However, the sellers were told to brace themselves, once the listing expires they will be called at a ridiculous volume.
Literally, hundreds of phone calls and some persisted three months later. Only those threatened, due to the home being on the FDNC, Federal Do Not Call List, with lawsuits and complaints filed with the board of realtors stopped some.
Most agents knew these sellers were bluffing. The board was called, but they said there was nothing they were able to do about this invasion of privacy.
Months later, a call creeps in from time to time, even after over 90 telephone numbers were blocked by the sellers.
"Blocking numbers in that amount", equates to a full-time job. What a hassle.
It's a wonder anyone would list their home for sale with a Real Estate organization that does not have an enforceable way to protect a home seller's privacy from their own membership!
What to do now?
Contact your Board of Realtors. Send them this article. If you are a home seller that had a canceled or expired listing, do the same.
Together we can make a change for the better.
Callers are going to call. But, if we stick together, we can stop this.