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Are You Violating Your Vendors’ Privacy?

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The "address available on request" house at 197 Jumping Creek Road.

Surfing the real estate listings this morning before breakfast, I was shocked to find that some premium agents violate their clients’ basic expectations of privacy.

Luxury real estate agents are rightly held to a higher standard than others. More money is at stake in every transaction, and both vendors and buyers are more financially sophisticated.

At this price range (I searched for properties above $4 million), it is understandable that many vendors prefer to keep the exact address of their home private, to all but interested potential buyers.

That’s why, on listings portals like Thehomepage.com.au or realestate.com.au, it’s very common to see the words “address available on request” at the top of the page where the street address would normally appear.

How the floorplan of 297 Ernest Street, Neutral Bay, appears on realestate.com.au. This is an "address available on request" property. Note the address at bottom right.

Yet, agents who hide the address at the top of the listing sometimes accidentally reveal it further down the page — often in big, bold letters half as tall as your thumb.

The culprit is the floor plans, which may be prepared with the address written on them. Careless agents who upload the floor plan without removing the address thus reveal the precise location of the home shown — against the vendor’s wishes.

This careless mistake is not limited to agents in one metro area. The brief research I did before breakfast this morning found three agents who are breaking their clients’ bond of trust.

They are:

Can you tell where this "address available on request" property is located?

This mistake is easy to make, and it seems minor enough, but it violates a client’s basic trust — and their privacy.

If one of these properties were to be burglarized by someone who had found it on realestate.com.au, the client would probably feel justified in holding the agent responsible.

Also, I thought you’d like to know: as soon as I posted this item I sent an email to each of the agent’s listed so they can fix their mistake.

 

 

NOTE: This post has been edited to remove agent names and brands.

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16 Comments

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 10:21 am 0Likes

    Dave, good to see you raising this issue & that you emailed the agents.

    Agents really do need to have greater attention to detail when uploading listings onto the internet. (in all price ranges not just the higher end of the market).

    A typo in print can’t be changed once it goes to print BUT on the web these things can be changed very quickly which really means that there should be no excuse for typos, etc.

    btw think perhaps you could’ve got the message across about why agents need to remove the address from a floorplan, without naming & shaming 3 agents (out of the hundreds if not thousands who are probably guilty of this).

    I tweeted a message out to one of the agents from Allens as soon as I got half way through reading the article because it’s now not a good look for their brand.

  • Darian
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 10:32 am 0Likes

    I’ve found sustainability declarations (at least in QLD) to be another source of “precise address” information – not sure of the legislation around this and how it could be avoided.

  • Glenn Rogers
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm 0Likes

    Sloppy work, agents are paid enough to be attentive to their clients best interests.

    That sort of thing must be the work of inexperienced juniors……….. who should be supervised.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 2:54 pm 0Likes

    Greg, you may be right about not needing to name and shame. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Glenn Batten
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm 0Likes

    Dave

    My experience is that when an agent withhold’s the address on the web it is because the agent makes that decision not the owner. You have made an assumption that because the address is withheld on the listing page that it was done so at the specific request of the owner, and therefore the omission is an act of negligence. That may be correct, but I think there is a better chance it was the agent who withheld the address.

    It is very rare for us to receive a request from an owner to hide their address but I could certainly understand that in higher price brackets that would be a more common request but a quick check on realestate.com.au of listings over $2m shows the address is listed on 90% plus properties.

    Addresses are generally withheld by agents in the belief that it will generate higher enquiry levels because prospective purchasers will contact the agent to find the address. We have debated that tactic on here before and there are different schools of thought.. As a property’s price rises the pool of potential buyers decrease and therefore the number of enquiries are often much lower and the importance to extract every single prospective purchaser for a given property is increased.

    Certainly adding the address to video tours, floor plans and other ancillary marketing is very counter productive if you are hiding it on the main display advertising. In these cases there is a mistake certainly, but I would not necessarily jump to the conclusion that these three agents are violating their vendors privacy like you suggest in your opening paragraph. This is not a matter of differing opinions, they are either in breach of the vendors privacy or not and IMHO there is a high chance that you will be wrong in one, two or all three cases..

  • Peter Konidaris
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm 0Likes

    Good work, Dave

    I agree that it is good how you contacted the agents. I do the same thing, even with my competitors (especially when they misspell a street name or make similar rookie mistakes).

    From day one, an agent’s commitment to their vendors should be to act as thoroughly as possible and never to miss a beat (even if the commission is not deemed a big one). These examples are a total case of apathy on the agents’ behalf, and obviously nothing has been proof read.

    I’m also in real estate, and it is usually an administrative staff member who physically clicks on the ‘upload’ button for all electronic and print media, however these things should always be proof read by the admin staff member AND the agent first. We don’t just sit back and let it all just happen. I bet these 3 agents will try and “pass the buck” by blaming their sales secretary or receptionist for the blunder.

    It really annoys me when simple idiotic mistakes are made (be it as simple as a typo in the script). If you’re delivering mediocrity to the public in your behind the scenes proof-reading, then your service to your own client probably won’t be much better.

    Cheers,
    Peter.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm 0Likes

    Glenn, you’re right. That’s my assumption – that the address is withheld at the owner’s request. It may not be correct.

    Peter, it’s kind of you to tell your competitors about their mistakes. We all make stupid mistakes, or, at least, I certainly make a lot of them!

    Thanks for the comments.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm 0Likes

    Glenn, I just checked these agents’ other listings.

    Interestingly, only a very few have the address withheld. I don’t speak for the agents, but the fact that they withhold the address only on a few listings suggests that it is done only at the request of the occasional owner.

    That might be a mistaken assumption.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 9:04 pm 0Likes

    I thought you’d like to know that one of the agents I emailed about this issue responded quickly with a very professional email, to the effect that he was fixing the oversight immediately. The floorplan has also been removed from his listing page.

    The other two have not responded yet, and the floorplans showing the addresses are still available on their pages.

  • vic Del Vecchio
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:20 am 0Likes

    Dave I think in bringing this matter to the attention of our readers is timely. It is not only a matter of privacy that should be addressed by all agents but the overall controls of what is being distributed to portals and for that matter agents own web sites.

    As a portal owner we are constantly being emailed or phoned up by agency administrators on the correctness and currency of listings appearing on our site. With each query we do dilligent investigations and in all cases we find the error emanates from the agency office itself.

    Often the mistakes are due to sloppy controls from agency offices in the maintenance of their uploads and updates through their bulkuploads. Sold properties are not removed, updates do not take into consideration what was previously uploaded, admin officers resign or are moved to different positions within an office, sales staff responsible for the original posting leave the industry.

    Although the instances that Dave mentioned may not be as a result of the abovementioned scenarios, the onus must be on Agency principals to have processes in place to at the very least, control the flow of information to portals and ensure it is constantly monitored and correctness maintained.

    Some have good processes in place; most don’t.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:39 pm 0Likes

    Great comment, vic. Real estate agencies today are for practical purposes media companies, with print, email, web and mobile distribution. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially if you fall into it eyes closed, without thinking the processes through.

  • Karl
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm 0Likes

    Hi Dave,

    You may want to alter the photos also to remove the name of the agent as it is till present.

    Great comment on the industry!

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm 0Likes

    Thanks, Karl. Done.

  • Shane Dale
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm 0Likes

    Dave Dave Dave ! – I agree with the agents being sloppy – Glenn’s comments I think are even more enlightening.

    HOWEVER! must take offence at the nonsensical burglary comment – utter rubbish based on nothing.

    I am not aware of any facts to make this connection.

    In my personal experience of 16 years – doing floor plans and virtual tours, videos and photos, I have never ever seen a correlation with burglary due to floor plans ever – I have asked agents – again supporting floor plans as no risk.

    – with the possible exception of a clearly “inside job” where the owner unlocked his own hidden safe and got around his own “state of the art” alarm system – then blamed the floor plan and virtual tour for it. Then some idiotic policeman was found by the paper to back this possibility up. That was about 10 years ago – pure tech fear and hype.

    Its frustrating because I had 2 years of people bringing this up due to that silly article in a newspaper in Sydney.

    Dave, with respect, I must say the comment is not baed on the evidence of many many years of plans used by agents and is unnecessary fear mongering to those not versed in the process of marketing properties effectively.

    In short –

    BUYERS PREFER PROPERTIES WITH FLOOR PLANS.

    AGENTS CAN USE THEM TO EXPLAIN TO A BUYER

    SELLERS UNDERSTAND THEY ARE A SENSIBLE MARKETING ITEM

    The real risk to sellers is NOT using them to entice buyers to view the listing.

    Even ugly properties make great floor plans!

  • Shane Dale
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 10:07 am 0Likes

    Hi Dave, Hope I wasnt too harsh with my previous comment – apologies for venting my accumulated frustration of dealing with agents over many years – you know how it goes, the big monkey hits the smaller monkey and so on down the chain – suppliers to the industry sometimes get to be the end of that chain 🙂

  • Dave Platter
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm 0Likes

    No worries, Shane. You are absolutely right about floor plans being vital to effective selling.

    They key point is that, when the property is listed with the address withheld, the address should also be removed from the floor plan. That’s easy enough to do, even while still providing a floor plan.

    Regarding burglary, that certainly touched a nerve in you, didn’t it? 🙂 I don’t think I suggested that this occurs often, or that I even said it had every occurred. Still, probably it was an overreach on my part to suggest that it could occur.

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