Did the ForSaleByOwner.com Announcement Cross Ethical Boundaries?
When ForSaleByOwner.com issued an announcement last week that it is the first “by owner” real estate website to advertise its listings on Realtor.com, it started a firestorm of response by the National Association of REALTORS®. The NAR not only sent out its own press release denying a relationship between Realtor.com and ForSaleByOwner.com, it rightly pointed out that the FSBO service didn’t even contact Realtor.com or the NAR before making the announcement.
“When I saw it, not only did it seem like an improbable relationship, I was surprised that I did not see a press release from Move or NAR because that is normal procedure when announcing partnerships or alliances,” writes Saul Klein, CEO of Internet Crusade and Point2 Technologies. Klein has posted his response on RealTown.
ForSaleByOwner didn’t deny it. They told evansEmedia their relationship is with flat-fee brokers, not Realtor.com.
Then why use Realtor.com’s name in a PR stunt that effectively links the two companies together in a way that appears that there is a relationship?
Both sides say there is not one. In fact, USA Today wasted no time publishing the news in the news magazine and failed to ask Realtor.com’s or the NAR’s side.
What’s “icky” about this situation is that the Department of Justice has taken broad powers to squash full-service Realtors, including publishing a page on its usdoj.gov site explaining the virtues of limited service without giving any support to full service agency.
Even ickier is ForSaleByOwner’s use of a competitor’s strengths to lift itself, in effect using the appeal of Realtor.com to forge a link in the mind of the consumer.
“It definitely crossed the boundaries of ethical PR,” says one PR professional who prefers to remain anonymous in case legal mudslinging begins.
It’s a poor business strategy that could backfire on the FSBO site. “If I were a struggling FSBO on my last legs, maybe my last ditch effort might be to get my property onto R.com and pay a broker to do this,” sniffs a source.
ForSaleByOwner.com general manager Greg Healy told evansEmedia that they “had our attorneys look at it and they believe everything is fine.”
Will the NAR/Realtor.com respond legally? No comment, but spokesperson Lucien Salvant says emphatically, “There is no agreement between ForSalebyOwner.com and Realtor.com. Presenting unrepresented seller information on Realtor.com has never and would never be permitted by NAR.”
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