Advertising “sold” properties as a listing agent

QUESTION: I recently received an oversized postcard sent out by an agent at another firm in our market. I’ll call her Jane Doe. On one side of the postcard, at the top, is a headline that reads “RECENTLY SOLD BY JANE DOE.” Below that are photographs of several houses along with their addresses and selling prices. Although Jane was the listing agent on all of the houses, she did not represent any of the buyers. It seems to me that Jane’s postcard is misleading. Does it violate either the license law or the REALTOR® Code of Ethics?

ANSWER: It does not.

The Real Estate License Law authorizes the Real Estate Commission to discipline brokers for “pursuing a course of misrepresentation… through agents, advertising or otherwise.” While Jane could have used different words to more precisely describe her role in the sale of the pictured houses, the words on her postcard are not a misrepresentation. The average person probably does not think of the word “sold” in the same way as a broker, and probably does not draw a distinction between “listing” a property and “selling” a property.

Article 12 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics obligates REALTORS® to be honest and truthful in their real estate communications, and to present a true picture in their advertising, marketing and other representations. Standard of Practice 12-7 provides additional guidance that is particularly relevant here. It states, in part: “Only REALTORS® who participated in the transaction as the listing broker or cooperating broker (selling broker) may claim to have “sold” the property.” Since Jane has done something that is specifically authorized by Standard of Practice 12-7, her conduct cannot be considered unethical in any way.

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