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Front Page - Friday, August 23, 2019

To call or not to call? Respectfully serving our community

We have all received them – the annoying telemarketing call interrupting family dinner night. You thought they would eventually go away, especially after you registered your phone number with the Do Not Call Registry, but those pesky telemarketers will risk almost anything to reach people, including breaking the law.

And it’s not only phone calls. Many people I know have had people knock on their doors and ask if they want to list their house for sale. These people haven’t asked for assistance and have not made any indication that they’re even considering moving.

Believe me, I understand we’re in a tight market. Finding the perfect house for someone in a certain price range can be a challenge. We’re trying to help our clients with their housing needs, and the lower-than-normal inventory has many of us scrambling to find the right options.

Lately, the targeting of consumers to list their home for sale is being done more and more aggressively through phone, mail and in-person – to the point of driving through neighborhoods and catching people in their yards. In this climate of low housing inventory, not only are expired listings being targeted but also those that have never been on the market.

Realtors do not consider themselves to be telemarketers. But even though we don’t employ the aggressive tactics typically associated with telemarketers, some of my colleagues might be surprised to learn they too must comply with telemarketing laws, including compliance with the Do Not Call Registry.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits telemarketing calls to consumers who place their personal phone number on the national Do Not Call Registry. Operated by the Federal Trade Commission, the registry offers consumers protection against unwanted telemarketing calls.

Phone numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry may not be called by persons or entities placing telemarketing calls, i.e. calls that solicit the purchase of goods or service. This includes calls seeking to list or buy a consumer’s property.

There are a few important exceptions, however. The registry only applies to personal phone numbers, not business lines or business-to-business calls. If you have a prior business relationship with a consumer, meaning you listed or sold a person’s house, you may call that person for up to 18 months after you last did business with them, even if their phone number is listed on the Do Not Call Registry.

You may also call consumers for up to three months after they make an inquiry about services. Additionally, you may make calls to consumers otherwise listed on the registry if you obtain express written permission from the consumer to contact them by phone for marketing purposes.

Among Realtors, two commonly misunderstood scenarios related to the Do Not Call Registry are For Sale by Owner listings and expired listings.

First, agents often incorrectly believe they can call a For Sale by Owner listing under any circumstance. That’s not the case. If the seller’s phone number is registered on the Do Not Call Registry, an agent is prohibited from calling the FSBO listing except where the agent has a client interested in the listed property.

Also, it’s prudent to cross-reference FSBO listings in the MLS, as those listings might be exclusively listed by a fellow Realtor for which the seller has instructed a real estate sign not be placed in the yard.

Second, there is an uptick in class action litigation involving calls made to consumers with recently expired MLS property listings. These class-action lawsuits are expensive to defend and by statute hold violators liable for up to $1,500 for each violation.

Realtors should be mindful of the TCPA’s prior consent requirements before employing a marketing strategy that includes text message solicitations and autodialed calls. Check with the National Association of Realtors for resources to assist you with your telemarketing compliance questions.

For those in the community who feel annoyed by solicitations to list your home – I get it. It can be annoying. Simply conveying that you’re not interested will most times stop any further follow-up. Just know that all of us are fortunate to call this area our home and that so many other people are looking to make it their home as well.

To my fellow Realtors, be mindful that some people might feel targeted by aggressive marketing. Some groups, including the elderly and infirmed, find these methods off-putting. We should try to not let our enthusiasm to help consumers come off as pushy or greedy. Realtors are bound to our Code of Ethics, and we see people in our community not as dollar signs, but as partners.

We serve our clients and their ever-evolving needs in an ethical and transparent way. That’s Who We R.

Greater Chattanooga Realtors is The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga. A regional organization with more than 2,000 members, Greater Chattanooga Realtors is one of some 1,300 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. Greater Chattanooga Realtors services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information, visit www.gcar.net or call 423 698-8001.