As ChatGPT and other AI chatbots have exploded on the scene, Realtors are now having to confront an avalanche of “expert advice” riddled with half-truths and misinformation. More than ever, Realtors must be prepared to be the trusted advisor who helps their clients avoid following chatbot-generated misinformation that can lead to litigation.
Part 1 of this series looked at five common questions that buyers ask their agents, the incorrect answers provided by ChatGPT, and the correct responses a competent Realtor should make instead. Below are five common seller questions that ChatGPT also answered incorrectly.
1. Has there been a recent appraisal on the property?
Perhaps the most troubling thing that ChatGPT and other chatbots do is to hedge their bet by saying, “As a language model, I cannot provide legal advice,” and then immediately provide information that often constitutes legal advice. The paragraph below illustrates this point.
As a language model, I cannot provide legal advice. However, in general, the disclosure requirements regarding an appraisal depend on the laws and regulations of the state or country where the property is located.
So far, so good, but then it advises:
Therefore, the listing agent should consult with a licensed real estate attorney in the relevant jurisdiction for specific guidance on disclosure obligations.
Agents are trained on disclosure obligations and if they have questions, they need to check with their manager, not hire their own real estate attorney.
The next statements have additional errors as well:
In some jurisdictions, sellers are required to disclose any material facts that may affect a buyer’s decision to purchase the property. An appraisal can be considered a material fact if it provides information that could affect a buyer’s decision to purchase the property or the price they are willing to pay. In such cases, the seller may be required to disclose the appraisal to potential buyers.
If there is any uncertainty about whether the appraisal needs to be disclosed, the listing agent should err on the side of caution and disclose it. Additionally, if the appraisal is still relevant and reflective of the property’s value, it may be beneficial to share it with potential buyers to help support the asking price.
- Whether something qualifies as a “material fact” is a legal issue — agents should never attempt to make this determination.
- Appraisers typically use appraisal forms from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA or VA. These forms only include three properties. Unfortunately, appraisers often select comparable sales that are totally inappropriate. Furthermore, their data is based upon closed sales that are at least 60 days to 120 days old. As a Realtor, you have access to the most recent sales information. In today’s volatile market, both clients and lenders need the most recent sales data available to accurately estimate a property’s value.
- The primary reason for not relying on ChatGPT for advice about appraisals is that it is a Large Language Model (LLM), not an appraisal AI or algorithm. The various AVMs from CoreLogic, HomeSnap, Realtor.com, Redfin and Zillow are based upon sophisticated pricing AI algorithms that draw from a wide variety of data on which LLMs have not been trained.
2. Do I need to disclose any issues with the property to potential buyers?
GPT correctly advised:
Listing agents have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure that all material facts about the property are disclosed to potential buyers. Material facts are any issues that may affect the value or desirability of the property. Therefore, the answer to the question “Do I need to disclose issues with the property to potential sellers?” is yes. The listing agent should advise their seller to disclose any known issues with the property to potential buyers.
It is important for the listing agent to explain to their seller that failing to disclose material facts could result in legal and financial consequences, including potential lawsuits or the sale falling through. The seller could also be held liable for any issues that arise after the sale if they did not disclose them beforehand.
Where GPT went horribly wrong was by stating:
If the seller is unsure about what needs to be disclosed, the agent can provide guidance on what is required by law and what is considered best practice in their local market. It is important for the agent to document all disclosures made by the seller in writing to protect both parties.
Giving advice about what is required by law constitutes legal advice. Furthermore, most states only require the agent to do a visual inspection of the property and report what they observe. Neither the buyer nor the seller’s agent is required to document whether the seller has correctly made all disclosures.
3. What is the square footage of the property?
ChatGPT seems to be giving great advice, but it is almost entirely wrong.
As a listing agent, it’s important to gather accurate information about a property, including its square footage. When the seller tells you what the square footage of their home is, you can use that as a starting point, but you should also verify that information to ensure its accuracy. There are a few ways to verify the square footage of a property, such as:
- Measure the property yourself: You can measure the property yourself or hire a professional to do it for you.
- Check public records: You can check public records, such as property tax records or building permits, to see if the square footage matches the seller’s claim.
- Use online resources: There are several online resources that can provide square footage information for a property, such as Zillow, Redfin or Realtor.com.
It’s important to note that the accuracy of the square footage information can affect the value of the property, so it’s essential to ensure that it’s correct. If you’re unable to verify the square footage, it’s best to disclose that to potential buyers and let them make their own assessments.
You have no business measuring the property yourself, relying on the seller’s claims about the lot size, or relying on Realtor.com, Redfin or Zillow who pull square footage from the MLS.
Even if you have square footage numbers from the title company, the county tax assessor or some other source, these numbers may differ and may both be wrong. Always advise your seller to avoid quoting square footage or where the boundary lines are on the property.
When the buyer asks about these issues, the only correct response is:
If you want to know the exact lot size, the square footage of the improvements, or where the boundary lines are located, please hire your own inspector and/or surveyor to make these determinations.
4. What are the fees and commissions for selling my home?
ChatGPT correctly advised agents to provide a clear and transparent explanation of the brokerage’s policies and fees. They should also be honest about any costs of selling a home including how commissions are calculated and distributed.
Listing agents should provide clear and honest communication with sellers about fees and commissions and ensure that all agreements are in writing and fully understood by all parties involved.
Where GPT went off the rails was with this part of the response:
Listing agents should provide the seller with a written listing agreement that clearly outlines all fees and commissions associated with selling the property. The listing agreement should also outline any obligations of the listing agent and the seller, such as timelines for completing inspections, repairs, or other requirements.
It’s impossible to know all the fees that will be associated with selling the property. A big part of that is regulated by TRID and agents must follow those guidelines exactly.
Moreover, there is no place in any listing agreement for the timeline for completing inspections, repairs or other requirements. Those dates are all negotiated in the purchase agreement, not in the listing agreement.
5. How should listing agents disclose the current property tax information on their listing, especially if the taxes will increase for the new buyer?
GPT got this part of the answer to this question partially right:
Listing agents have a responsibility to disclose accurate and complete information about the property being sold, including its current property tax information.
If the seller provides the agent with a copy of the county tax assessor/collector’s bill for property taxes for the previous year, agents can include that information if there is a field on the MLS listing input sheet for that data.
Where ChatGPT made a number of egregious errors was in the following piece of advice.
One way to disclose the current property tax information is to include it in the property listing description, along with any information about potential tax increases. For example, the listing agent could state the current property tax rate, the assessed value of the property, and the estimated annual property tax amount based on these figures. If the property taxes are expected to increase for the new buyer, the agent should also provide information on the potential amount of the increase, the reason for the increase, and when the new tax rate will take effect.
In addition to including this information in the listing description, the listing agent should be prepared to discuss the property tax information with potential buyers and answer any questions they may have. Providing clear and accurate information upfront can help buyers make informed decisions about whether or not to purchase the property.
Here are the key problems with this piece of advice:
- There is no place on the Exclusive Right to Sell to state the current property tax rate, assessed value of the property, or the estimated annual property tax amount based upon these figures. Nor is there a place on the MLS data input sheets.
- Under the Agency Laws in most states, the listing agent has a fiduciary duty to their seller, not to the buyer.
The most glaring errors, however, were these two recommendations from GPT:
The listing agent should be prepared to discuss the property tax information with potential buyers and answer any questions they may have.
If the property taxes are expected to increase for the new buyer, the agent should also provide information on the potential amount of the increase, the reason for the increase, and when the new tax rate will take effect.
Agents are prohibited from giving tax advice. Under no circumstances should they attempt to explain property tax increases, the reasons for the increase, or when the new tax rate will take effect.
If your state has a specific tax rate (e.g., in California, property taxes are 1.2 percent of the sales price), you can provide clients with a link to the state’s property tax codes. In other states where values are assessed individually, advise the buyers to contact the city/county tax assessor for information on the property they intend to purchase.
As AI chatbots like ChatGPT become increasingly prevalent in the real estate industry, it is crucial for you to stay up to date on your disclosure obligations and to avoid giving legal or tax advice. That’s the best way to provide your clients with accurate and reliable information and to avoid making mistakes that can lead to costly litigation.
Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.