The National Association of Realtors has a Code of Ethics that its 1.3 million members agree to abide by. The Association of Associates Representing Sellers (AARSTEAM), a new membership group created by the CEO of a New York real estate brokerage company, offers an alternative called the "Oath of Actions."
Realtor-affiliated for-sale property information databases are known as multiple listing services, or MLSs, and millions of Realtor-listed properties are displayed at NAR-affiliated Realtor.com.
Members of AARSTEAM, as independent agents and non-Realtors who don’t list properties on MLSs, post property information at the association’s "PFS" ("properties for sale") search site. There are fewer than a dozen properties listed at that site, and the association’s AARSTEAM.com site lists two association members — both of them work at the AARS founder’s brokerage company.
Russell Dickson, the CEO for NoSellerCost.com Inc. and founder of the for-profit AARSTEAM corporation, said he believes there must be an alternative to NAR for agents who specifically represent sellers. "AARSTEAM is a seller-oriented association for independent real estate brokers. There would be a conflict if you were a member of (NAR)," Dickson said, as he believes some NAR policies are not in the interest of sellers.
Specifically, he said disclosure by Realtor-affiliated MLSs about the number of days on market could be contrary to sellers’ interests, and he said that buyer’s agents should not be allowed to enter a seller’s home via a lockbox without the presence of the seller’s agent. Some contract language, he also said, may also work against the interests of sellers.
"This is not your grandfather’s association," according to marketing materials for the new group. Members, dubbed AARSREPS, must pay an annual fee to participate in the association, the Web site states, and AARSREPS have a fiduciary duty to represent the seller’s best interest "at all times of a real estate transaction" and agree to the "oath of actions."
That oath states that AARSTEAM members "shall not disclose a seller’s days on market to any potential buyer at anytime," for example, and that members "shall not utilize any form of a lockbox or hidden key method to allow another individual (other than self) to view the seller’s premise without your presence."
The days-on-market issue has been a divisive one for the industry, as some agents have attempted to remove a property from an MLS and then re-list the same property in order to reset the days-on-market counter and make it appear as though the property is newly listed.
And there is not a consensus among real estate search sites on whether to display or withhold days-on-market statistics.
Dickson said he believes there is opportunity for the new concept to grow, citing an estimated population of 1.7 million real estate licensees who are not affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.
An unaffiliated organization, the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents, was founded in 1995 as a nonprofit organization to serve agents and brokers who work exclusively with home buyers.
"Until recently, the real estate industry exclusively represented the seller," according to the NAEBA Web site, and the association seeks to provide an equal level of representation in real estate transactions for buyers.
Already, some industry groups offer designations for real estate professionals who have engaged in specialized training in working with either buyers or sellers. RealtyU, a real estate education and training company, for example, offers an Accredited Seller Representative designation, for example, and the Accredited Buyer Representative designation is offered through NAR’s Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council.
Jon Boyd, a past president for the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents who works at Home Buyer’s Agent of Ann Arbor, said he was surprised that there was no mention about dual agency in AARSTEAM’s oath — dual agency is a situation in which a single agent represents both a buyer and seller in the same transaction. Some states do not allow dual agency, as there are potential legal conflicts with such transactions.
Also, he said, "They advocate against using lockboxes, and in many markets that is vital to getting a home shown, particularly for relocating buyers. I don’t see that as in the seller’s best interest or in the buyer’s best interest." Boyd said that it may not always be in the best interest of sellers to require that the seller’s agent is present during every showing of a home.
Dickson said he had been a real estate broker for about eight years, and, "I resigned my license so I could concentrate on AARSTEAM."
Dickson had served as broker for NoSellerCost.com Inc., a company that claims on its Web site that it offers "full service" real estate services to sellers at a zero commission rate, and also offers advertising packages to post property information on a Web site.
When asked how the brokerage company makes money, Dickson said, "We don’t get into specifics. We get that question asked every day. The competition hates it and our sellers love it." He said the company does not offer any cooperating compensation to brokers who bring a buyer into transactions.
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