As a licensed real estate agent within the state of NSW, if I was to open a business as Greg Vincent Lawyers or Greg Vincent Solicitors, etc without the right accreditations in place then how long do you think I could remain conducting a legal practice?
Yet, Peter Mericka of Lawyers Real Estate has either found a loop hole in the Victorian agency licensing legislation or Lawyers Real Estate has simply been placed into the too hard basket and has been allowed to continue to practice under the business name Lawyers Real Estate for the past 4 – 5 years without having undertaken any formal real estate licensing… That’s right! 4 – 5 years without a real estate license.
Either way, judging by Peter Mericka’s statement within his video on Today Tonight below and a letter from Robert Guthrie of the NSW Fair Trading Property Services Licensing posted on the Australian Real Estate Blog it would appear that Lawyers Real Estate may be looking to expand their real estate operation into other areas and possibly interstate.
Now I don’t know if it’s simply because of the name of his business that the industry bodies are too scared to take Peter Mericka on or whether there is in fact a loophole within the current Victorian legislation which entitles him to legally continue to operate in this manner as Lawyers Real Estate?
But if there is a loophole, is this business model what agents can expect to see more of into the future?
As a licensed agent I have invested a lot of time and money to achieve my licence and remain licensed.
I continue to pay annual renewal fees and have to undertake ongoing training to obtain the required CPD points required to continue to hold a real estate licence year after year. After watching the Today Tonight story about Lawyers Real Estate, I’m starting to wonder what on earth I’m paying the fees for.
I have to say that I agree with one thing that Peter says in the Today Tonight interview, “the people who matter are the real estate consumers”.
Which leads me to wondering if something did go sour with a transaction via Lawyers Real Estate would the consumer be protected by the Victorian Property Fund? Or is there a different fund that they can make a compensation claim through?
Listings appearing on realestate.com.au
And then there’s the issue about whether Lawyers Real Estate should be allowed to upload their listings onto realestate.com.au as they currently do.
Under the latest version of the General Terms and Conditions for Residential Subscriptions to www.realestate.com.au it clearly spells out who can upload onto their site…
2.1 You represent and warrant in respect of each property you list on our web site that:
(a) you are the holder of a current real estate agent’s licence in the State(s) or Territory to which your use of the Service relates;
(b) you have a signed authority to sell from the owner or vendor (such as an Agency Agreement or Authority to Sell); and
(c) you are authorised to make available the material uploaded or submitted to use the Service;
(d) you will not allow another real estate office in your real estate group to list the property using your subscription. Where a proprietor of a property authorises multiple real estate offices in your real estate group to list a property you acknowledge that:
(i) this does not entitle you to authorise any other person (including, without limitation, any associated offices in your real estate group) to make use of the one subscription; and
(ii) any such conduct is in breach of these Terms and Conditions; and
(e) you are providing the full range of agent services (as set out in our Private Listing Policy).
Whilst Lawyers Real Estate don’t appear to comply with this section of realestate.com.au’s T & C’s and their ability to continue to upload onto REA is up to the respective legal departments to sort out, one thing I noticed is that Lawyers Real Estate appears to have very little regard for wanting to comply with some of realestate.com.au’s AUP.
Under the realestate.com.au Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) – Residential, it would appear that REA don’t allow other website addresses to be promoted within the copy text of a property being advertised yet Lawyers Real Estate are currently including the URL www.SLOD.com.au within the body of the property text when uploading their listings which appears to be in breach of 4.1.6 the Misuse of fields.
Here’s a screen capture…http://screencast.com/t/YmU2ZTQwNTg
Misuse of fields
4.1.6. Placing irrelevant information in an information, description or picture field. You must only use the information, description or picture fields for inserting information that is intended for those fields. For example, inserting the name or contact details of your business or agency in the description header or property description field is not acceptable. Inserting a business or agency logo as a picture in a property listing is also not acceptable. For copyright purposes, small watermarks are permissible on images, but only in one corner of the image. Superimposed wording or text is not permissible.
The SLOD.com.au URL provides a link to Lawyers Real Estate online service for bidding, making enquiries and booking inspections, etc. If the URL is allowed to continue to appear on Lawyers Real Estate’s listings under the legal interpretation of Clause 4.1.6 or other parts of the realestate.com.au AUP, it could then open the door for agents to feature website URL’s within the property text field.
What about Privacy Laws?
On top of that, uploading the seller’s contact phone number onto a public site like realestate.com.au is not only in breach of 220.127.116.11 in REA’s AUP but wouldn’t that also breach other Privacy Laws?
Here’s a screen capture…http://screencast.com/t/NTczN2ZiOT
Note: For privacy reasons I have covered the seller’s name & contact number.
Other inappropriate content
4.1.24. Using the Service for any unlawful, illegal, malicious or improper purpose. For example: it is not acceptable to, in your use of the Service, display material that:
18.104.22.168. may defame or discredit another person or business;
22.214.171.124. may disclose private, personal or confidential information;
126.96.36.199. might be considered obscene, offensive, menacing or abusive;
188.8.131.52. might infringe the intellectual property rights of others;
184.108.40.206. may violate any law, regulation, standard, content requirements or code promulgated by any relevant authority or industry body.
I’m sure Peter Mericka of Lawyers Real Estate will be able to shed some light on how this is legally OK?
I’d also be interested to know if clients sign an agency agreement when they list with Lawyers Real Estate and whether the lawyers have signed an inspection report and included opinions of price on the property or do they simply rely on an independent valuer to assess the price for their clients.
And if so, is the registered valuation an added cost or is it included in their flat fee?
If Lawyers Real Estate has indeed found a loophole and they are allowed to continue without the normal licensing that a real estate agent has to have then as I mentioned earlier, it could open a huge can of worms and we could see a lot more lawyers opening up real estate agencies.
If this is allowed to continue then agents should really start to question why we are paying annual licensing fees to the government departments if they won’t police and legislate the licensing of the industry more effectively.
Plus, I’d be really interested to know how Lawyers Real Estate got to be on realestate.com.au in the first place?
Finally, I don’t have an issue with the discount commission model that Lawyers Real Estate are using because discount real estate agencies have been around for years and are now a dime a dozen, but it does concern me that some consumers may feel that going to a Lawyer to sell their property is going to mean that they feel protected and that they are going to get the best deal.
For example, here is a video of what some of Lawyers Real Estate clients have said…
If you’re considering employing a lawyer (either with or without a real estate licence) to sell your property then it’s important to remember that in the end they are in business and they will expect to get paid a commission.
And just because the negotiations are done by a lawyer doesn’t guarantee that it will always turn out to be the best thing for their client. Many legal deals end up being negotiated on the steps of court rooms and it’s not always the case that a Lawyer’s client walks away 100% happy with the end result.
Consumers still need to do their due diligence because in the legal profession, as per the real estate profession, some people get good representation and others get poor representation.