– By Stephen Fussell, Chief CPO
The Commission introduced the Working With Real Estate Agents Disclosure (“WWREAD”) in the spring of 2021 and its use became mandatory on July 1, 2021. Based upon consumer complaints investigated by this office, it appears that most agents are using the form properly. This article seeks to remind licensees regarding the key elements of the form.
The two primary purposes of the WWREAD are (1) to caution prospective buyers and sellers not to share confidential information with brokers who do not represent them and (2) to introduce prospective buyers and sellers to the types of agency relationships that are offered by the firm of the broker who is reviewing the WWREAD with them.
Commission Rule A .0104(c) requires licensees to review the WWREAD with prospective buyers and sellers at first substantial contact. Simply sending the form to a prospective buyer or seller and asking them to sign it or even to call you if they have questions does not comply with this rule. Including a link to the form in your email signature is not sufficient to comply with the rule. A broker must review the WWREAD with the prospective buyer or seller.
What is first substantial contact? First substantial contact occurs either (1) at the point that a prospective buyer or seller begins to volunteer confidential information regarding their interest in a sales transaction or (2) when a broker wants to ask a question to obtain confidential information regarding the buyer’s or seller’s interest in a sales transaction. In order to prevent a prospective buyer or seller from revealing confidential information before a broker reviews the WWREAD with them, every broker should develop an introductory statement for a first interaction, such as “Before you share any information that you do not want me to share with others, we need to review an agency disclosure together.”
Both sides of the WWREAD contain an instruction that reads, “Note to Agent: Check all relationship types below that may apply to this seller [or buyer].” A broker should mark each type of agency offered by his or her firm. Marking a type of agency does not mean that a buyer or seller is choosing that type of agency. It simply means that the firm offers that type of agency relationship. For example, if a broker’s firm only represents either sellers or buyers, but not both, then the broker should only mark one section of the WWREAD – the “Seller’s Agency” section or the “Buyer Agency” section, depending on which the firm represents. If a broker’s firm represents both sellers and buyers, and offers dual agency, then the broker should mark the first two types of agency on the form. If a broker’s firm offers designated dual agency, then the broker should mark the first three types of agency on the form. If a prospective buyer or seller refuses agency representation, a broker should still review the types of agency offered by the firm and mark the unrepresented buyer/seller type in addition to the other types of agency relationships offered.
After reviewing the WWREAD with a prospective buyer or seller, a broker should ask them to sign the form. Signing the form only demonstrates that they have received the form. It does not create an agency relationship. If a buyer or seller refuses to sign the form, give them a copy of it and make a note in your own records that the buyer or seller refused to sign. Keep in mind that, if the Commission performs a spot audit and finds a significant number of unsigned WWREADs, it may demonstrate a lack of compliance with Rule A .0104(c). Moreover, rule violations can lead to disciplinary action.
After reviewing the WWREAD with a prospective buyer or seller, be sure to ask them if they have any questions. It is important that they have a basic understanding of the types of agency relationships offered by your firm. You can also offer them the Commission’s brochure, “Questions and Answers on: Working With Real Estate Agents.” This publication will answer common questions that arise regarding agency relationships.
In order to assist brokers in reviewing the WWREAD with prospective buyers and sellers, the Commission now has two videos in the “Video Library” section of its website (ncrec.gov) under the “Resources” tab and the “Consumers” tab.