Listings Stay With the Broker

Don't assume your listing makes the switch when you change brokers.

June 1, 2009

Q: About a week after I took on a new listing, I switched brokerages and had my license transferred. My client, the seller of the property, wants to follow me to my new broker. Can she ask my former broker to terminate the listing so she can relist with me at my new brokerage?

A: This situation requires a delicate balance. The Code of Ethics governs only activities of REALTORS® and not activities of clients. Therefore, there is nothing that prohibits the seller from independently requesting that your former broker terminate the listing.

Whether and to what extent the listing broker must honor that request is a matter of contract law in your state. The seller should consult with her attorney about her legal rights under the listing contract.

Where the need for balance comes into play is in your conduct. Generally, a listing agreement is entered under the name of the broker or brokerage—not the sales associate. In such cases, the listing is "owned" by the broker and not by the sales associate. As Article 16 of the Code provides, "REALTORS® shall not engage in any practice or take any action inconsistent with exclusive representation or exclusive brokerage relationship agreements that other REALTORS® have with clients."

Assuming that "your" listing was an exclusive listing, Article 16 of the Code prohibits you from interfering with your former broker’s listing, including one that was "yours" prior to your departure from the company.

Standard of Practice 16-20 amplifies this obligation and expands on a REALTOR®’s conduct both before and after leaving a brokerage: "REALTORS®, prior to or after terminating their relationship with their current firm, shall not induce clients of their current firm to cancel exclusive contractual agreements between the client and that firm."

So, while the seller can decide to follow you to your new company, you may not do anything to attempt to induce that seller to ask that the listing be cancelled or terminated.

Bruce Aydt

Attorney Bruce Aydt, ABR, CRB, SRS, is a national real estate educator, a Missouri real estate broker, and past chair of the National Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee.