The One-Click Rule
With more and more electronic communication being done in public — the “social” part of social media — you’ll find that you can never really remove your Realtor® hat. That means you need to be extra careful when you’re writing an e-mail, crafting a blog post, or replying to a tweet.
And I don’t just mean “always be professional.” I mean that there are disclosure rules from both the Virginia Real Estate Board and the Realtor® Code of Ethics that apply online whenever you engage in “advertising.”
And believe me, the definition of “advertising” is pretty broad.
But first, the basics. VREB regulations and the Code require that you disclose the following in any communication that could be construed as advertising:
- Your name
- Your firm name and where it’s located (either the main office or the office you work out of)
- What states or regions you’re licensed in
But that doesn’t mean you have to put all that information in every message.
The one-click-away rule: Those disclosures must be made either in the message itself or on a Web site that’s one click away from the message. (Twitter is an exception; more on that in a moment.)
As we’ll see, that makes meeting your disclosure requirements very simple.
This is the easiest one of all: Simply add a signature line to all your e-mails that includes the disclosure information. (We’re not talking paragraphs of legalese. Your non-business contacts will understand.)
Jane Doe, Realtor®
Schlobotnik Realty, Blacksburg
*Licensed in Virginia and North Carolina. *
If even that’s more than you’d like to stick on the end, just include a link to a Web page that contains it:
Learn more about how Schlobotnik Realty and I can help you at www.janedoerealtor.com/about.
That meets the Code’s requirement of having your firm name included, and it takes advantage of one-click-away to keep the whole disclosure thing down to one line.
Facebook makes things a little more difficult because there’s no “About Me” section on your main page. Therefore, unlike with Twitter, your disclosures will be more than one click away, as visitors will have to go to your “About” page.
That means — in order to meet your disclosure requirement, you need to put your firm name and a link to your disclosure page on every Facebook post that could be considered advertising. It might seem odd at first, but after a while your “friends” will expect it.
Agency: It’s a simple word that describes a complex set of relationships that Realtors® engage in every day. Its complexity is evidenced by the volumes of books written about it, the fact that it is taught as a semester course in law school and, most importantly, the way it is misunderstood in everyday real estate practice.
With that fact in mind, here’s a quick refresher on existing agency laws, some common scenarios, and a preview of upcoming changes.
For full information on this topic visit Virginia Realtor’s site at:
The REALTOR® Trademark
Use of the Term REALTOR® with a Member’s Name
Members are licensed by NAR to use one or more of the MARKS in connection with or in reference to themselves and their real estate businesses. Use in connection with a member’s name is acceptable as long as it is consistent with the guidelines and policies of this Manual.
For example, to comply with the Form of Use Limitation, the MARK must appear in all capital letters and be set off from the member’s name by punctuation. To comply with the Context of Use Limitation, the MARK must never be used with a descriptive term or as a vocational description such as a real estate broker, agent, or licensee. The MARKS are not and may never be used as a designation of a person’s licensed status.
It has become customary in some areas for one member to address another member as, for example, “REALTOR® Jones.” Such use as a letter salutation or signature is acceptable. For example:
Dear REALTOR® Jim:
Dear REALTOR® Jones and Mr. Doe:
A non-member is never permitted to use the term REALTOR® or REALTOR-ASSOCIATE® adjacent to his name on a business card or anywhere else, even if he is employed by or affiliated with a firm that is permitted to use the term REALTOR®.
Association executives and staff may use the MARKS to identify their positions with their Member Boards. For example: John Smith, Association Executive, ABC Association of REALTORS®.
Use of the REALTOR® Logo with a Member’s Name
As with the terms REALTOR® and REALTOR-ASSOCIATE®, the REALTOR® Logo may also be used in connection with a member’s name as long as such use complies with the policies and guidelines regarding display of the REALTOR® Logo as set forth in this Manual. To download the manual, click HERE
Antitrust laws are designed to promote competition and protect consumers — for example, from “arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids.” Because competing real estate brokers and salespeople frequently cooperate with one another in the sale of properties, they have many opportunities to engage in conduct that might be construed as violations of antitrust laws.
THE REALTOR® FAIR HOUSING DECLARATION
The REALTOR® Fair Housing Declaration states that REALTORS® agree to:
- Provide equal professional service without regard to the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin or sexual orientation of any prospective client, customer, or of the residents of any community.
- Keep informed about fair housing law and practices, improving their clients’ and customers’ opportunities and their business.
- Develop advertising that indicates that everyone is welcome and no one is excluded;, expanding their client’s and customer’s opportunities to see, buy, or lease property.
- Inform their clients and customers about their rights and responsibilities under the fair housing laws by providing brochures and other information.
- Document their efforts to provide professional service, which will assist them in becoming a more responsive and successful REALTOR®.
- Refuse to tolerate non-compliance.
- Learn about those who are different from them, and celebrate those differences.
- Take a positive approach to fair housing practices and aspire to follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
- Develop and implement fair housing practices for their firm to carry out the spirit of this declaration.
For more information visit DPOR at: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/FairHousing/
What Is the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)?
The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, was enacted by Congress to provide homebuyers and sellers with complete settlement cost disclosures. The Act was also introduced to eliminate abusive practices in the real estate settlement process, to prohibit kickbacks, and to limit the use of escrow accounts. RESPA is a federal statute now regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
For information visit Virginia Realtors Website at https://www.virginiarealtors.org/for-members/legal/