ORLANDO, Fla.–There is some unsettled business between full-service brokerages and limited-service brokerages. The various sides don’t always see things the same way, and getting all sides to cooperate in the traditional ways can be impossible or at least more complicated in some cases.
Today, hundreds of Realtors and other industry professionals discussed the major issues, vented frustrations, and deliberated the next course of action in working out the kinks between full-service brokers and those brokers who are “Multiple Listing Service-entry-only” brokers, or brokers that list properties but do not offer full services.
The forum, titled, “Full Service and Limited Service Brokers: The Legal Challenges of Working Together,” featured nine panelists and a moderator. The forum was a part of the National Association of Realtors annual conference, held this year in Orlando.
Steve Casper, moderator for the forum, said the topic is definitely an important issue for the association, and the association invited members of its MLS committee and professional standards committee to listen-in on the discussion. The committee members were invited “to hear questions and concerns that are out there,” he said, and those committees at some point may consider “whether any rule change should take place.”
Some state associations have already moved to clarify issues of responsibility and set minimum service standards for real estate brokers. The Illinois Association of Realtors worked with the state Legislature to craft a public act that defines exclusive brokerage agreements and sets minimum service requirements for real estate professionals who enter into these agreements. The act was passed in August.
The Texas Real Estate Commission had earlier proposed a similar rule in 2001 that would require real estate brokers to provide a minimum range of services, though that rule was repealed after a complaint. Audience members said similar initiatives are under consideration in other states, too. Some limited-service brokers have said they are worried that brokers’ interpretation and implementation of “minimum service” policies might affect their ability to do business.
Jeff Young, a director for the Michigan Association of Realtors who attended the forum, said the Michigan association has formed a task force to consider whether to establish minimum-service requirements for all brokers in the state.
“We’re really cautious about having any negative legislation that gets in the way of (alternative) business models,” Young said after the forum, adding that the intent is to eliminate confusion and improve the experience for consumers. He said that some people have expressed concerns about dual-agency situations cropping up for buyer’s agents with some limited-service listings.
John Kmiecik, president of the Illinois Association of Realtors and a panelist at the forum, said consumer protection was at the heart of the new Illinois legislation, and the law also “raises the bar of professionalism among Realtors.” He also said the “law was not directed at any specific business model.” He encouraged Realtor groups in other states to study Illinois’ law to see if it could be applied to their states.
“We’re very comfortable with this. We’re on some groundbreaking territory. This was the right thing for us to do. If we’re going to police ourselves, the best way to do that is within the framework of our licensing law,” Kmiecik said.
Gerald Stoffer, a panelist and a Realtor at RE/MAX 200 Realty in Winter Park, Fla., said that we’re living in a consumer-driven society, and consumers have certain expectations for minimum services in other industries, such as health care – so why not real estate? Some limited-service companies make buyers’ agents work harder, in some cases, he said. “My experience is that there’s double-duty,” he said.
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Jeff Karchin, an independent discount broker in the San Diego, Calif., area who offers MLS-entry-only listing services, said he makes it clear to sellers what services he is offering and what services he is not offering.
Robert Greene, founder of Rep One Realty in Orlando, Fla., who offers MLS-entry-only listing services and a menu of other fee-based real estate services, said he doesn’t cut any corners as a limited-service broker. “When I list a house I list it exactly as I did as a full-service broker,” he said.
Adorna O. Carroll, owner-partner of Realty 3 Carroll & Agostini in Berlin, Conn., who was a panelist at the session, said she has a practice of entering into written contracts with clients, and this practice can guarantee adequate compensation even in transactions where the commission is severely restricted by a limited-service broker.
An audience member suggested that the National Association of Realtors work to establish its own unified policy to set minimum service standards for brokers.
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