Posting Phantom Listings to Internet Sites – Is It Legal or Ethical?

I received an email this afternoon from a potential client.  He had found a listing on Zillow and had emailed me for more information.  The listing did not have an address but an ID number in Plano, Texas. The listing had been posted by a local agent with a large brokerage.

I dropped over to the MLS and brought up all of her listings.  She had 7 active listings and none in Plano. I went back over to Zillow and noted she has over 170 active listings.  I dropped her an email and asked her for the MLS number or listing information if this was a non-MLS listing. She emailed back that, I could look it up myself on a local new homes sales site.

What’s she’s done is to copy new home listings and put them up on Zillow as if they are her listings. I see some resale listings as well.  I’ll bet those have been poached from other agents.

I see three issues–legal, ethical, and copyright.

I can’t find the rule in the Texas Property Code, but offering a property for sale without the consent of the owner rings a bell with me. 

This is a clear violation of Article 12 of NAR’s Code of Ethics.  SOP 12-4 states, ” REALTORS® shall not offer for sale/lease or advertise property without authority. When acting as listing brokers or as subagents, REALTORS® shall not quote a price different from that agreed upon with the seller/landlord.

Many of the “photos” are artists renderings taken from the builders’ listings. This is a clear case of copyright infringement.

I dropped her broker an email letting him know about the situation.

I started to dig around and easily found another broker doing the same thing. I’ll email him in the morning. 

If they don’t take the “listings” down, I plan on going the distance with an ethics complaint.

I wonder how widespread this is?

About Tom Branch

Tom Branch has written 597 posts in this blog.


Have you ever just met someone, but felt you like you'd known him for years? That's what most people experience with Tom. He has a knack for making folks feel right at home. After 21 years in the Air Force, loyalty and honesty are the foundation of everything Tom does. In addition to being a Texas Real Estate Broker, Tom is a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) and a Short Sales & Foreclosure Resource (SFR).

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