The home buying process will involve the disclosure of hundreds of pieces of information about the buyer and/or the seller. From credit reports, loan applications, to addresses and phone numbers. In many cases, much of this information will be disclosed inadvertently, and in other cases, such as a credit report or social security number, this information will be disclosed to 3rd parties necessary to the completion of the sale of the property.
The home buying process also involves the disclosure of information that while not confidential on the surface, may be held in confidence in order to protect the buyer and/or seller so that their position throughout the home buying process is not compromised. Confidentiality is vital to buyers and sellers, and they each depend on the real estate professionals involved in the home buying process to protect their clients’ confidentiality to the highest. Why is this important?
From my prior background in Security, and working in a hospital, I understand the need to protect vital information. From investigations that I was privy to, or that I’ve conducted, to patient confidentiality, where a patient’s identity was not to be revealed, nor their medical condition be released, confidentiality has always been an integral part of my background.
Today, confidentiality is no less the lay of the land when it comes to protecting a client’s information. Clients often share vital and private information believing that their agent, their lender, and or their title representative will not disclose any personal information about them. As real estate professionals, we understand how extremely important it is to hold on to very important confidential information for our clients. How do we do it?
First of all, as Realtors, we are bound by our ethical requirements. We are prohibited from disclosing any information shared with us confidentially by our clients. Secondly, we also present our clients with an agency disclosure. This disclosure spells out our responsibilities to clients, and customers where we also go over what is required by the Louisiana Real Estate Commission on how to maintain and spell out our responsibilities as real estate agents.
Throughout any sale of real estate, agents are aware of the demand for information on their clients. But we are always mindful of what we can share, and when we will have to redirect those seeking our clients’ information to use other avenues, including sending those sources directly to our clients themselves. Most often, real estate agents, lenders and title companies generally are the ones requiring the most information, and for that matter, have a direct connection with the buyer or seller. But through the course of the sale, it is possible that one of those entities may make an inquiry, and that inquiry will have to be referred to the client for the information that they are seeking. It is not worth the risk to share confidential information on our clients, no matter how small or seemingly slight, regardless of who is seeking that information.
It is not unusual for clients not to want to disclose information that they deemed confidential, even if protected by law. And, if it is not protected by law, we are bound to protect that confidentiality. When we talk about things that are protected by law, there are certain things that aren’t protected. For example, the fact that someone died in the house is not something that necessarily has to be disclosed. Or, the fact that a house may have ghosts, or that someone lived in the house with a high profile disease or illness, is not something that needs to be disclosed, by law (consult with your Realtor or attorney for confirmation). In the sale of their home, for example, a seller has the right to protect their investment. But by the same token, a buyer has the right to know of a material defect in a property that would ordinarily affect the peaceful enjoyment of their purchase. The law speaks to these issues, although the law’s position may vary from state to state. Federal laws may also have an impact on what a real estate agent and a seller or buyer may not disclose and keep confidential.
The bottom line is, whatever our clients’ need for confidentiality, as real estate professionals who represent buyers or sellers, we need to insure that we take all proper precautions in protecting our clients when it comes to giving out or maintaining their information. Confidentiality of a client’s personal information is constantly being threatened by sources not necessarily or directly needed to complete the sale. An experienced agent will know how to deflect those trying to seek confidential information on their client. If more information is needed, discuss with your respective real estate professional or attorney.
(Not intended to be legal advice. Links are not intended to be endorsements)