Remove your home from the Internet?

Guest post by VAR member Tina Merritt

I recently read a blog post by Norma Toering entitled, “Please Remove My Home from the Internet“.  In her post, Norma describes the enormous amount of effort she recently went through to remove all traces of a former listing she had marked as “sold”.  In my opinion, Norma went above and beyond her duties as an agent.

The situation got me thinking though….what ARE our duties as agents with regards to former listings on the Internet?

According to the VREB:

All online listings advertised must be kept current and consistent as follows:
a. Online listing information must be consistent with the property description and actual status of the listing. The licensee shall update in a timely manner material changes to the listing status authorized by the seller or property description when the licensee controls the online site.
b. The licensee shall make timely written requests for updates reflecting material changes to the listing status or property descriptions when a third party online listing service controls the website displaying the listing information. 

OK, so by now we all know that we’re supposed to keep our internet listings updated.  But, what does the future hold for this?  Here’s where I’m coming from:

In June 2010, Agent Annie lists 321 Main St. in Richmond.  Annie is a great agent and does a fantastic job marketing her seller’s property on the Internet.  She registers the domain name for the address, creates a single property website, uploads the pictures to Flickr, creates a video on Youtube, etc., etc. etc.  The property sells and Annie makes sure to mark the property “sold” on all of her internet marketing efforts.

Fast forward now to 2015.  The current owners of 321 Main St. in Richmond want to sell their home.  The agent who helped them buy their current home, Albert Agent, did a great job keeping in touch with them over the past five years and they hire him to represent them now as a seller’s agent.

When Albert embarks on his Internet marketing efforts for 321 Main St., he is surprised to see Annie’s name everywhere when he searches the property address on Google. He tries to register the address as a domain name; however, Annie still owns it.  In fact, even though Annie correctly marked the property as “sold” on all of her Internet marketing, she now has 5 years of Search Engine Optimization history for the property address of 321 Main St. She owns the number one result for that address.

After a couple of weeks on the market, the sellers check on Albert’s marketing efforts by Googling their address.  They are very disappointed to see Annie’s information come up first on Google along with the previous listing.  They ask Annie to remove all traces of the old listing; however, she refuses stating that it is neither a licensing nor code of ethics violation for her to keep the information up as it is accurate.

So, what are our legal and ethical obligations as Realtors® and licensees?  Will there be battles in the future over this?  What is the agent’s responsibility if a property owner, who was never the agent’s client, requests to have all mention of their former listing removed from the Internet?

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2 Responses to Remove your home from the Internet?

  1. Lenn Harley says:

    I am of the opinion that the COE and license law requires a listing broker/agent to maintain the accuracy of their MLS listing report. I don’t believe that, once a property advertisement has been syndicated on the Internet that the listing broker/agent has the responsibility to police other entities that benefitted from the aggregation of that listing report. The listing broker/agent was not a party to any agreement that permitted the syndication of the MLS listing report.

    The URL for the property address is the property of the agent who purchased it 5 years ago and it clearly has value. Seems to me that the present listing broker/agent would be willing to buy that URL for a reasonable fee or simply buy a URL to suit their needs. The claim that there is only one URL for each address is just plain silly. There are probably 10 ways to describe a property address in a URL. There are also .com, .org, .biz., .net, .re, etc. that would be just as effective for search engine purposes, although I seriously doubt the search value of an actual property address.

    This is, IMO, a matter of the present listing agent simply “stirring the pot”, rather than doing what can be done to advertise a property.

  2. AV Homes says:

    Well, Annie did do a good job by marking all her previous deals as sold, but I was a little disappointed to read that she refused to have her name completely removed from the listing when a new agent wanted to sell it for his clients. It doesn’t make sense why she wouldn’t help him out, so she doesn’t cast a shadow on all his listings of the property. Maybe she was starting a collection of sold house listing to promote herself as a great selling agent, but she should have empathized with the new selling agent a little bit more. This is another case where following the Golden Rule would be best.

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