A Question of Ethics?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Homelink Real Estate - Red Bluff

Hello All,

Here is a question for everyone.  I saw a listed property with the door open and even though it was not my listing I stopped to lock it up.  There were no cars in the driveway.  When I got out, a person was there and said that they were buying the home and their real estate agent had let them in.  The lock-box was open and I assume they had the  key.   I asked if their agent let them in, just to clarify.  So I left and came back to my home office and looked up the listed property.  The property was pending. 

So going on the assumption that they were telling me the truth, here is the ethical question, "Should the buyers agent have left the buyer there by themselves and the listed property open?".  This was on a weekend so she was probably not meeting an inspector there.  #2 "Should I have called the listing agent?".  3. "Does the property being empty and a lender owned make a difference?". 4. "Should I have asked for the key and locked up the property?"

This is an exercise in ethics, but I would appreciate feedback.  Different views are helpful in teaching from mistakes and helping other s to avoid them.


Comments (19)

» Bill Burress Nationwide Mortgage Originator
» Bill Burress Nationwide Mortgage Originator - Fort Myers, FL


I would have contacted the listing agent.  I'm sure he/she would have been interested in what happened.

The buyer's agent should not have left the buyer at the listing by themselves. Maybe you asking for the key and locking up the property might be a little out of line. Its like when you are at the public pool and someone else's children are acting up. You want to say something to them, but they aren't your children.


Jul 02, 2007 09:34 PM
Rob Robinson- Lehigh Valley PA
Bertrum Settlements (Title & Abstract) - Allentown, PA

I would have checked with the listing agent. 

However that person runs their business, and possibly with the Sellers approval...is between them.  Yes, you want to be concerned citizen, but you also do not want to screw up their deal.

Jul 02, 2007 11:06 PM
Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Eighteen Years Experience in Brevard County
Would I let the buyers have access and leave? Never have and don't know of a situation I would. In your case I would have at least called the agent, if only to let the other agent know you were being conscientious!
Jul 02, 2007 11:46 PM
Jackie Moye
Bob Parks Realty - Franklin, TN
I have had this happen in my new subdivisions where a buyers agent will "unlock" an MLS lockbox and allow the people to stop by when they are ready. Call the listing agent immediately
Jul 02, 2007 11:52 PM
Matthew J Blum - (retired from the business)
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Shawn,  I am not a Realtor but I have to say that really seems wrong what the Realtor did.  I know if I was selling my home I would not want anyone in it alone until they own it.
Jul 02, 2007 11:54 PM
Paul Moye
Benchmark Realty - Franklin, TN
Broker, GRI, SRES
I know my wife gave her two cents worth on the new home angle and I must agree that from the general real estae brokers angle please call that listing agent today and tell them what happened. If that buyers agent has done this once they will do so again and I do not want it done to my listing or by a buyers agent in our office.
Jul 03, 2007 12:11 AM
I agree with Mathew. If it was my home, I would want to know why my Realtor wasn't there. 
Jul 03, 2007 12:19 AM
Alexander Harb
Knights Investing - Mesquite, TX
Dallas, Texas Real Estate Investing
Definitely call the listing agent.........after that your responsibilities are done... you will be able to sleep well at night.....
Jul 03, 2007 12:21 AM
Sybil Holcomb
Ayres Realty - Douglasville, GA
Even if it is a vacant foreclosure we still have an obligation to our client.  I think agents are taking to many risks in leaving homes opened.  I've showed a home only to get there and find it unlocked.  I locked it when I left and called the agent to tell them so and was told "I left it open because I had some people that wanted to see it".  My thoughts--get off your BUTT and do your job.
Jul 03, 2007 12:26 AM
Agnes Ikotun
AI Virtual Solutions LLC - Newington, CT

As a seller i won't want anyone left unattended on my property, their agent should have been there with his/her client(s).

Yes, inform the listing agent! 

Jul 03, 2007 12:43 AM
Dave Sulvetta
Dave Sulvetta, eXp Connection, Gloucester County Realtor - Gloucester Twp, NJ
ummm...some of us are missing the point...its the agents job to stay with the buyer....SYBIL....is exactly right
Jul 03, 2007 12:45 AM
Rob Robinson- Lehigh Valley PA
Bertrum Settlements (Title & Abstract) - Allentown, PA
While I agree Dave, that really wasn't the entire question posed by Shawn.  It was more ..what to do...from HIS standpoint.
Jul 03, 2007 02:58 AM
Shawn Nichols
Homelink Real Estate - Red Bluff - Red Bluff, CA

Hello All,

Thank you all for the responses.  This input is very important.  We live in a small area and as a small office I did not want to blow the whistle on an agent that could cost them at a minimum a fine from the MLS and at worst a suspension from the MLS and a reprimend on their license.  California tends to take a narrow view on these things.  I did not want to cost them the deal, but as a broker I would want to know if any of my agents had done this.  Basic agent training should have covered this situation.  As an agent you are responsible for anything that happpens while your client is there.  Leaving a listing open and not being there is a No-No in my book. 

I will be calling the listing agent this morning as this happened late on Saturday.  With your input I was able to more effectively decide a course of action.  My first instinct was to call the listing agent and find out who the buyers agent was and have a talk with their broker.  You have all gave valuable input and for this, AGAIN, thank you.

Jul 03, 2007 03:00 AM
Lisa Lawrie
Homelink Real Estate and Mortgage - Chico, CA

Great post Shawn.  Ethics or laziness?  I know of agents that stop working once it's in escrow.  They get tired of showing the property over and over again.  I have a friend that her agent let her use her lockbox key because she didn't want to look at every property with her.  I'm assuming she only looked at vacant homes, but this is before I became a Realtor.  I couldn't imagine give a client my lockbox key.  Yikes

Keep up the great work.  You're an excellent agent.

Jul 03, 2007 03:58 PM
Carolyn Shipp
Source 1 Real Estate - Mineral Wells, TX
Mineral Wells Texas Real Estate
I definitely would have called the listing agent.  Were you able to get ahold of him or her this morning?  I'm interested to find out what happened.  As to whether or not the listing agent knew about it, etc.  In our office, we do not allow buyers to be at a property without an agent present.  Even with our vacant land, we do not have customers go out and "walk" the property without an agent.  Of course, being in Texas this may be dangerous to do anyway.  Guns are prevalent and there have been instances where an owner is not afraid to use them.
Jul 03, 2007 04:40 PM
Todd Clark - Retired
eXp Realty LLC - Tigard, OR
Principle Broker Oregon

I would have contacted the listing agent also, they may have given permission to this agent to just let their client in, but if not, then I would have pursued it a little more and reported it to their principle broker.

Jul 04, 2007 07:31 PM
Shawn Nichols
Homelink Real Estate - Red Bluff - Red Bluff, CA

Hello All,

Just giving an update.  I called the listing agent and he did not seem upset, and I think knew about this.  He said the buyer was from out of town.  Either way, it is now out of my hands, I have done what I could short of reporting it to the broker or association. 

Have a great day,


Jul 05, 2007 04:55 AM
Rob Robinson- Lehigh Valley PA
Bertrum Settlements (Title & Abstract) - Allentown, PA

Sounds about what I thought was happening.

Thks for the update Shawn.  Ya just never know if that person trying break into a car is a thief ...or an owner of the car that locked their keys in.

You did the right thing IMO.

Jul 05, 2007 05:00 AM
Artur Urbanski
Cimpler Real Estate, Inc. - Burlingame, CA
Helping property owners to maximize property value
Shawn, it is not  a reply to your ethics question (hope you don't mind):

Based on discussion triggered by William Johnson, and your contributions to this discussion, I wold like to invite you to the followig discussion:

Is it OK for real estate agents to coach their clients on how to improve FICO score 

I am very interested in your opinion.

Jul 07, 2007 10:00 PM