Give people a reason to call you

by Dennis Wilson, Manager, Professional Standards

Here’s an issue that’s been percolating over the last few weeks and threatening to bubble over as we head into the spring market. Members have been calling me to complain about other REALTORS® advertising listings and sales they shouldn’t be marketing.

The value of prospecting using flyers or other tools (e. g. websites, social media) to demonstrate what’s selling in a given area is obvious and has been done for years. In fact, the public likes receiving this information as it makes them think about the potential value of their own property.

However, here’s the issue. Members unfamiliar with or misinterpreting the advertising rules often break them and drive other members crazy. It’s more than just a matter of professional courtesy and respect. You run the risk of being held accountable by our Business Practices committee and/or BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner for sharing private or misleading information. This could ultimately cost you in reputation, fines or more.

Simply put, you just can’t:

  • advertise listings that aren’t yours,
  • advertise listings that aren’t active,
  • advertise sales in which you had no involvement, and/or
  • ignore provincial privacy legislation.

We’ve shared the relevant Rules before and here they are again. Rules of Cooperation 8.03 says: “…advertising, in any form whatsoever, of a listed property by any member other than the listing brokerage shall only be done with prior approval of the listing brokerage…” So if it’s not your listing, you cannot advertise it without the listing brokerage’s permission.

When you list a property for sale, the listing contract gives you the exclusive right to advertise the listing, so even the sellers can’t advertise their property on Craigslist or Kijiji without your approval.

Another important point to mention is that no one, not even you (the listing agent), can advertise the sale price when the property sells before the information is publicly available in a government registry (e. g. Land Title), unless you have written permission from both the seller and the buyer. Note: The MLS® is not a public registry, so even if there’s a sale price on the MLS®, you don’t automatically have permission to share it.

One exception is if you were the selling agent. Rules of Cooperation 8.05 allows you to advertise your involvement in a sale. However, the same requirements which apply to the listing agent also apply to you. Another exception is where the rules for MLS® reciprocity apply and allow for reciprocal advertising on a website where both brokerages have opted into the program (and most have).

We know this is a big “don’t” list so let’s move on to what you “can do” in your advertising. Several years ago, we worked with the Business Practices committee (which has a mandate to monitor members’ advertising) to come up with a compromise for members to show their knowledge of a given market area and attract potential clients in advertising, while meeting the requirements of our advertising standards and provincial privacy legislation.

It’s by deliberately omitting details in advertising which identify specific properties.

In short, you leave out addresses, photos, descriptive text or other identifying content about the properties. This includes a strata complex’s name. You also need to separate your own listings from any others and use clear language so the person looking at your information is not mislead into thinking all the listings you’re sharing are yours.

To that you might say, “But Dennis, how am I supposed to attract callers if I leave out important details?”

I would argue that if you leave out some details, you’ll get more calls. If you share all the details you have on each listing in your advertisements, people don’t have a reason to call you. Once they call, remember, you can provide specific property information on an individual basis, as part of your duties in serving a client, however not in general advertising. When people call, you can then find out about them and what their needs are.

Here’s an example of what you can include in your advertising:

Properties Sold in Your Area in the Last Two Months

List priceSold priceAgeAreaLot size or typeDays on marketStyle of home

Note: When the new owners move into the property, you need to respect the fact that they did not give you (the listing agent) permission to advertise the sale price (their purchase price). Put yourself in their shoes. You just moved into a nice townhouse complex and you are introducing yourself to all your new neighbours at a coffee social. All these people know exactly what you paid for your place. How would you feel?

If you have any questions about advertising, please review the Advertising Standards posted on the Professional Standards Resources page on REALTOR Link®. Once you are there, you may as well check out the other rules affecting our profession. Happy selling!