Can buyer agents rely on a listing agent’s representations?

QUESTION: I saw in the Real Estate Commission’s January 2024 eBulletin that a buyer agent was reprimanded because he failed to verify information about high-speed internet access that was advertised in the MLS by the listing agent. Does that mean that buyer agents now have a duty to verify everything stated in an MLS listing?

ANSWER: It does not. However, the reported case is a good reminder that, according to the Real Estate Commission’s guidance, there are circumstances where a buyer agent is expected to verify information advertised by the listing agent.

There is a good discussion of this issue in the Commission’s 2022-2023 General Update Course materials on Material Facts. Here is a link to those materials. On page 23, the Commission instructs that “[a] buyer agent may generally rely on the accuracy of the property information provided by the listing agent” and “Further, a buyer agent is not expected to personally verify the accuracy of information provided by the listing agent in most instances.” (emphasis supplied)

The inclusion of the words we have underlined makes it clear that there are exceptions to the general rule. What are they? First, the Commission states that if a buyer agent reasonably suspects that the information provided by the listing agent might be inaccurate, the buyer agent may not rely on it and must instead conduct their own investigation. A second exception is where a client has identified something as being material to them. That exception is what led to discipline in the case referenced in your question. There, the buyers had told their agent that high-speed internet was a non-negotiable item. In that circumstance, the Commission expects a buyer agent to verify the listing agent’s representation.

The Commission’s Residential Square Footage Guidelines contain similar guidance. On page 6 of those Guidelines, the Commission writes: “Generally speaking, an agent working with a buyer may rely on the listing agent’s square footage representations except in those unusual instances when there is an error in the reported square footage that should be obvious to a reasonably prudent agent.” (emphasis supplied)

Release Date: 1/25/2024

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