Shopping for Phoenix Real Estate? Be Warned: Listing Status in the Arizona Regional MLS Means Nothing

avatarthumbnail.jpgIt seems so simple on the surface – a property’s status in the Arizona Regional MLS should reflect the current availability for that home. I mean, isn’t that the point of having a status field in the first place?

If Active doesn’t really mean Active – if it’s not possible to write an offer on an “active” property and have it considered by the seller, then is the property really active?

Yet there are more and more “active” properties that aren’t active at all.

Let’s take bank owned homes. A buyer submits an offer and the bank verbally accepts the offer but has yet to sign the documents, a process which can take up to a week. Since the contract hasn’t been executed the home remains in the MLS as active. Only when you submit the offer will you discover that an offer’s already accepted.

Why not call the agent first, you ask?  Because listing agents on REOs have made it more than clear they don’t want wish to be bothered. Most let calls roll straight to voicemail where you hear “if it shows it’s active, then it’s active” even when it’s not. Others only will respond to text messages or e-mails, presuming you use the correct font. (Okay, I made that last part up.)

The larger point is the question shouldn’t need to be asked. Active needs to be active and available for sale. End of story. Everything else should be Active with Contingencies.

On short sales, it can be even more enjoyable. Here, Bob Bemis and the gang at ARMLS have provided listing agents a means by which they can keep listings active long after an offer has been submitted to the bank:

B. If there is an offer, with the AAR Multiple Counter Offer form and the “AAR Short Sale Addendum to the Purchase Contract” signed by both buyer and seller and forwarded to the lender for approval, the listing shall remain in ACTIVE status.

So, to review … if an offer is submitted with the Multiple Counter Offer form signed, even if there aren’t multiple offers being reviewed, then it’s okay to keep a home as Active, even if it means deceiving other would-be buyers who are looking at an Active listing and rightly assume there are no other offers because they’re unaware of the game that can be played with a Multiple Counter Offer form.

Setting aside the logic of using a form specifically designed for situations where there are multiple offers where only one exists … how does that form in any way change the fact there are offers signed by both buyer and seller that already are being considered?

Buyers shouldn’t write an offer on a short sale only to discover there are seven other offers on the table and have been for some time. The entire short sale process is surreal enough without accidentally wading into a bidding war.

True, the MLS is at its heart a marketing tool for listing agents to communicate their listings to the rest of us licensees. But shouldn’t there be some requirement that fair dealings take place, that Active actually mean Active and not “Active unless it’s not and you won’t know until you’ve already spent the time.”

This needs to get fixed. Yesterday.

UPDATE: Five short sales. One with multiple offers. Two others with offers long ago submitted to the lender for approval. All showing as “Active.” The system’s a joke.

[tags]Phoenix real estate, MLS[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Mark A. 9 years ago

    That’s a problem with many listing agents in our MLS (Northern Illinois) as well. There are rules in place, to be sure, such as when exactly a listing has to be flagged as contingent, pending etc., as well as corresponding fines in the event these rules are violated. Many listing agents though seem to shrug, and take the attitude that unless the transaction is “airtight”, I’m not taking the listing off the market.

  • Dan Simon - Charleston SC Real Estate 9 years ago

    We have having the same challenges in the Charleston SC area. We have rules in place – some agents follow them & some don’t. A quick comment in the agent notes section of the MLS to say that offers have been submitted would be a big help. How much time can it take to extend this small courtesy?

  • Bob Bemis - CEO ARMLS 9 years ago

    Active should be Active, meaning available for purchase. Unfortunately not everyone can agree on what “available for purchase” means.

    This is a long running debate between listing agents and selling agents. And there’s no good answer because both sides have very valid arguments why their proposed rules/processes are the best. It depends on who you represent. And it’s complicated by the banks insistence that their REO’s remain active while they “consider” the offers they have, when in fact they’re wishing against all hope that someone comes in with a higher offer. What they don’t seem to realize is they’re shooting themselves in the foot because when a buyer agent calls and finds out there are already offers on the table, the agent and the buyer walk away, EVEN IF the offer might have been higher. They feel deceived and refuse to play the game. And I don’t blame them.

    “But shouldn’t there be some requirement that fair dealings take place, that Active actually mean Active?”, you asked. There should be. And agents should tell those REO listing agents who refuse to service their listings that they’re not playing fair. Maybe if a number of good, conscientious buyers representatives like yourself filed formal ethics complaints against these agents because you can’t trust the information they put in the MLS to be a true picture of the property, they might change their practices. Their rebuttal will be that it is a true picture, according to the rules under which we now operate, that allow sellers to continue to solicit offers until they sign something. The cynic in me doubts that even a pro-standards hearing will make any changes happen anytime soon.

    The elected leadership at ARMLS, agents and brokers from all parts of the valley, continues to debate this issue and to refine the rules when deemed necessary. I’m sure the debate will continue until the market turns and short sales become a distant memory. Not this year.

    Bob Bemis, CEO
    (O) 480-303-7224
    (C) 480-544-3225

  • Jonathan Dalton 9 years ago

    > Their rebuttal will be that it is a true picture, according to the rules under which we now operate, that allow sellers to continue to solicit offers until they sign something.

    But there’s the rub and the one thing ARMLS can control, Bob. The rules say a property can stay as Active even if both buyer and seller have signed if both also have signed a Multiple Counter Offer. So the seller has signed, accepting an offer contingent on bank approval.

    Sounds like active with contingencies from here … or even better, the good ol’ UCB – under contract, accepting backups. Because that’s what the true picture is but under ARMLS rules, that does not need to be reflected.

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