Proper Use of REALTOR® Marks on the Internet
Q: I am a real estate agent and a REALTOR®. I have created my own Web page – ncsbestrealtor.com is the domain name and email@example.com is my e-mail address. Are these proper uses of the term REALTOR® over the Internet?
A: No. You must always use the REALTOR® marks in accordance with the rules and guidelines of the National Association of REALTORS®, no matter what medium you choose. According to those guidelines, the term REALTOR® may never be used with descriptive words or phrases. Therefore, combining “ncsbest” or “sunnync” with the term REALTOR® as part of either your domain name or e-mail address is not a proper use of the term REALTOR®. Other examples of improper use by individual members and their firms involving descriptive words and phrases are residentialrealtors.com, resortrealtor.com, professionalrealtor.com and friendlyrealtor.com. Use of descriptive words and phrases relating to geographic areas by individual members and their firms create the impression that all REALTORS® in a geographic area belong to the same firm or that a firm is an association or subpart of the local board of REALTORS®. Therefore, individual members and their firms may not use Internet addresses such as wakecountyrealtors.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Rather, the term REALTOR® must refer to a member or a member’s firm. For example, if your firm name is ABC Realty, abcrealtyrealtors.com or firstname.lastname@example.org are proper uses of the term REALTOR® in Internet addresses. For domain names and e-mail addresses only, the term REALTOR® may appear in all lowercase letters without the ® symbol, and the term REALTOR® need not be separated from your name or firm’s name with punctuation. If you wish, you may separate the term REALTOR® from your name or firm’s name with punctuation, such as abc-realtors.com or email@example.com.
Q: Now that I have created my own Web page, I’d like to advertise my listings there. What regulatory and ethical considerations apply to Internet advertising?
A: In North Carolina, we do not yet have regulations that specifically govern Internet advertising, unlike some other jurisdictions. So, the same basic regulatory and ethical considerations that apply to print advertising apply to Internet advertising. Broker and firm identification is critical. Real estate licensees must comply with the North Carolina Real Estate Commission’s Rule A 0105 with respect to all advertising. According to that rule, every advertisement must clearly indicate that it is the advertisement of a broker or brokerage firm, and a salesperson must have his or her broker’s consent to advertise the property and must include in the advertisement the name of the broker or firm with whom he or she is associated. Article 12 of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics requires REALTORS® to ensure that their professional status (e.g. broker, appraiser, property manager, etc.) or status as a REALTOR® is clearly identifiable in their advertising. Moreover, Code of Ethics Standard of Practice 12-5 compels REALTORS® or any person employed by or affiliated with them to disclose the name of the firm when advertising listed property.
Q: I’d also like to link my Web site to another site that contains all the local listings. May I provide such a link?
A: Yes, under certain circumstances. First, you should obtain written permission to provide the link from the other site’s owner. Then, provide the link or the purposes of your directing your visitors to the other site. Licensing laws, the Code of Ethics and copyright laws prevent you from importing, downloading, copying or otherwise transmitting in any fashion the data from the other site and housing or displaying it at your site, unless you have the specific authority and consent of the other site’s owner and each broker and REALTOR¨ whose listing appears on the other site. If you are advertising other brokers’ listings on your site (having obtained the requisite permission), you must be careful not to mislead the consumer into believing that it is your advertisement. In other words, it must be clearly indicated that it is a competitor’s listing (show the company name and phone number). You must be diligent and continually monitor the status of every listing advertised on your site. For instance, you should immediately remove expired listings from your site, as you no longer have the authority to advertise the property once the listing agreement expires. For your own listings, it should be a relatively simple task, but be prepared to devote the time and energy it will take to ensure that all the information is kept current for other broker’s listings.
This article is intended solely for the benefit of NC REALTORS® members, who may reproduce and distribute it to other NC REALTORS® members and their clients, provided it is reproduced in its entirety without any change to its format or content, including disclaimer and copyright notice, and provided that any such reproduction is not intended for monetary gain. Any unauthorized reproduction, use or distribution is prohibited.