It seems the answer to that question is YES.
Yesterday, I stumbled across a tweet which linked a blog from an agent in Florida: Sorry, All Home For Sale Listings Have Been Removed From My Website. I thought that, maybe, it was about having problems with a webhost. Boy, was I wrong.
It has to do with something agents use called IDX. Every agent with a website will have the ability to search available homes on their website using the IDX program. It comes up when you click on a link called Search Homes or something similar. The IDX will show EVERY SINGLE PROPERTY listed in the local Multiple Listing Service.
Now, back to our dear Florida REALTOR®. In a nutshell, he has the IDX for his area on his website. A person who works as a Fair Housing Tester found a home on Realtor.com that had a description which is against Fair Housing Rules/Regulations: Noone under 16 allowed (I'm paraphrasing.) This 'tester', after leaving Realtor.com, somehow found this REALTOR®'s website and decided that, since that property showed up on his site, he was the listing agent and was therefore guilty of breaking Fair Housing Laws.
Problem: This agent WAS NOT THE LISTING AGENT and has no ties at all to the property in question.
It seems that doesn't matter as he has now been slapped with a federal lawsuit and fined $5,000.00. The agent who actually held the listing (from what I've read) hasn't had any charges/fines filed against him/her. (I've not seen any updates as of this morning, 3/11/13)
To give you an example: When you go our website, listings come up on the first page. If you click on ANY home, at the very bottom of the page, you'll see "Listing courtesy of XYZ Real Estate" In the content of the page are the agent's remarks about the home: " Great home with tons of upgrades! All poly pipes have been replaced. New kitchen cabinets & counter tops. New tiles floors, new air conditioner, new furnace & new roof. Come make this home yours today." (Example of one on our page this morning.)
The LISTING AGENT wrote that. Not me, not my husband, not anyone on our team. The listing agent works for XYZ Real Estate. Chances are I've not met the agent and the chances are even bigger that I've not been to this listing.
So - if this agent had included something along the lines of "No one under 16 allowed" - it would be THAT AGENT at fault. Not me. I have absolutely NO control over agent remarks that show up in our MLS. I'm not the Almighty and Powerful Copy Editor (although sometimes I wish I were), able to edit remarks.
Here's how that part works: As the listing agent, I take down all of your information and research your home through various websites - tax assessor and so on - to make sure I have all the information correct when I'm getting ready to enter it into the MLS. I usually enter my own listings, some agents have their office do it for them. Once I get all of the information entered, I hit the button and BOOM it's on the MLS. As far as I'm concerned, it's MY responsibility to make sure the info - and the agent comments - are correct and legal. Yes, maybe someone entering the home into the MLS will catch a mistake but, ultimately, it's on me.
There's no one sitting in a tiny, windowless room, reviewing every single MLS entry...althought I'm starting to think that maybe there should be.
So, back to the reason for this post: Our dear Florida REALTOR®, in my opinion, has been HOSED (to put it in politically correct terms - you may insert your own word). He has done NOTHING wrong and yet he's being hung out to dry. It could get to the point where he has to shutter his real estate business. I'd be gunshy, too, to have the IDX feed on my website after something like this. The feed is what keeps potential clients on my website, opening up the lines of communication. Without a feed, a buyer is going to skip on by.
My hope is that all of this gets worked out and that Jeff Launiere is cleared of any wrongdoing. Because, if he isn't, this is going to set a precedent that will throw ALL REALTORS® into panic mode. Trust me - we'll all be watching how this works out.