Mediation: A Winning Solution

Mediators cite 80 percent success rate in resolving disputes.

June 1, 1999

Whenever people work, play, or live together, there’s potential for disputes. And in our competitive business, we sometimes end up in conflict with one another.

REALTORS® have several options for resolving legal and ethical disputes, but mediation is becoming a common choice for settling both disputes between buyers and sellers and those between REALTORS®. It’s also grown in favor in other industries and with federal courts.

Mediation is cost-effective and fast and gives you a significant role in the outcome. With litigation or arbitration, someone else makes the decision. But in mediation the parties have control and fully participate.

Mediation is a negotiation moderated by a neutral party and can last from a few hours to a full day. For the parties involved, the up-front preparation is time-consuming--writing letters, making phone calls, and taxing your people skills--but the payoff is remarkable: Mediators nationwide cite an 80 percent success rate in resolving disputes.

In a typical mediation session, the mediator introduces the parties, outlines the procedure, and invites agreement based on specified ground rules. After a confidentiality agreement is signed by the parties, the mediator listens to the presentations from each party. This is usually followed by private meetings between the mediator and each party.

In the private meetings, or caucuses, the respective parties share confidential information with the mediator that they may not want disclosed to the other party. The caucus also gives the mediator the opportunity to discuss privately with the respective parties what the mediator sees as the hurdles, weaknesses, or problems. The confidential sessions provide an opportunity for the creativity and the anonymity that may be necessary to resolve some disputes.

The mediator helps the parties see and appreciate the other points of view and develop options for settling the dispute. In a high percentage of cases, the mediator is able to structure an agreement the parties are comfortable with.

Currently, mediation is an optional service local boards of REALTORS® can offer their members. Given its speed, economy, and efficiency in resolving disputes, it’s likely that more boards will begin to offer this service.

Carolyn D’Agosta is the 2016 Chair of the NAR Professional Standards Committee. A San Diego-based real estate broker, D'Agosta also provides instruction, expert witness testimony, and litigation support. Learn more or contact D'Agosta at

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