The PAR Legal Hotline has been hit with a slew of questions from listing agents asking about various scenarios in which other agents repost or otherwise share their listings via some sort of social media.
Sometimes it’s an agent repurposing an existing post from the listing agent for their own social media. We’ve also seen instances where buyer agents have made appointments for showings, but then use their time in the property to record a video or do a livestream for their online followers instead of (or in addition to) actually showing the property to a current client. In a social media world where clicking that “share” button is often seen as a good and helpful thing, there are certain considerations in the real estate world that should have you pausing.
Both RELRA and the State Real Estate Commission regulations prohibit advertising a listing that does not belong to you without having the permission of the listing broker or property owner. And of course Article 12 of the Realtor® Code of Ethics says you must present a “true picture” of your advertising/marketing and Article 16 prohibits members from taking any action that is inconsistent with the exclusive representation agreements that Realtors® have with their clients.
The first question you have to answer is whether agents automatically have permission to directly advertise listings from other agents. The answer, as is often the case, is “it depends.” Most agents who engage in this activity use one of two rationales. The first is “If I can advertise your listing on my IDX page, then I must be able to advertise it anywhere!” This is incorrect. Without getting into all of the gory details, the IDX advertising policy from NAR rules generally limits IDX advertising to a “website” under the control of the agent and/or broker where they can make sure that all the advertising meets MLS rules (like disclosing the listing broker, sometimes with very specific rules about size and location of the listing broker’s information). Advertising on social media is generally NOT going to be permitted under these IDX rules – unless your MLS has adopted a special set of local rules on this topic, which most have not.
The other rationale we hear is “But everyone should like that I’m sharing their listing! That’s how social media works!” Except that it’s not. There is no rule that says “Once it’s on social, any agent can do whatever the heck they want with someone else’s listing information.” Without permission to re-advertise the listing, you could be violating the law/regulations/Code of Ethics if you take information about another agent’s listing and do your own advertisement around it. That’s going to be problematic if you’re repurposing MLS information or existing social posts, and just as bad if you’re creating your own new materials (like a video tour), since that probably makes it look even more like you’re the listing broker.
Soooo… get permission. If you’re a broker, consider an internal rule that all agents affiliated with a broker can share listings from all other affiliated agents. That’s easy enough. If there’s a competing agent with a compelling listing, you could just ask them if it’s OK. If you’re confident enough in the “Everyone should like that I’m sharing” concept, then they’ll probably say yes, right? And if they say no, better to know now rather than later.
Of course when you do get permission to share that social media post, is it clear to consumers that you are not the listing agent? Does the post even give credit to them? Even if your intent is only to share information with prospective clients, always make sure that what you’re sharing is not misrepresenting the actual status of the listing.
The odd thing is that the callers we hear from know that this activity is prohibited, but we still get asked some iteration of “How is it okay that this person does this?” It’s not. So we’ve said it before and we’ll say it (once) again, neither PAR nor the Legal Hotline has the authority to call an offending broker and make them stop. If you want to curb potentially illegal or unethical behavior, we encourage members to reach out to the individuals who are doing it or ask your broker/manager to do so. Sometimes just educating people on the rules is enough. Then if it still goes on, the next step may be to consider pursuing a proper complaint to ensure that the behavior is addressed.