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Opinion Editorials

Ethics of blogging competing broker property listings

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Is there a definitive answer?

I’ve been an active Realtor in the San Francisco real estate market since 2002, and blogging about SF real estate since 2006, so I’m a little embarrassed that I don’t have a definitive answer to this question: is it a violation of the NAR Code of Ethics to blog about another Realtor’s listing? Many have opined, yet there is still a major disconnect between opinions. I’ve researched this topic, and I can’t find a definitive answer online… I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

The NAR code of ethics has a section titled “Duties to Other Realtors” – and it covers three basic concepts: 1) You will mediate and/or arbitrate grievances with other real estate professionals. 2) Don’t interfere with another agent’s exclusive representation agreement and 3) Don’t talk trash about a fellow real estate professional. The third concept is written a bit more precisely by NAR, and reads:


    REALTORS® shall not knowingly or recklessly make false or misleading statements about other real estate professionals, their businesses, or their business practices.

A strange conclusion

It seems to me that this statement comes closest to answering the question about what one Realtor may blog about another Realtor’s listing. And the answer, to me at least, seems to be a strange one, with the answer being – you can say anything you want online about another agent’s listing as long as what your write is nice and positive.

If I want to write about your listing and I have nothing but good things to say about it (and I clearly identify it as your listing) it doesn’t seem to me you have much of a claim against my writing about your listing. The comments making agents so frothy at the mouth that they’ll actually go to the trouble to file an ethics complaint aren’t the false compliments, they are the critical comments that are often a matter of judgement.

For example, another agent has a new listing. It’s priced at $500,000, which for purposes of discussion, I decide is a bargain. So I go on and blog about what a great property it is and how phenomenal the price is, and that it offers great value, etc. I identify the listing agent and brokerage and don’t in any way try to present it as my listing, just my commentary about someone else’ listing. And let’s say months later this property sells for $400,000. Did I make a false or misleading statement about another real estate professional, their business, or business practices when I said it was a bargain at $500,000? I have yet to hear of anyone being served with an ethics complaint for praising the list price of another agent.

But what if we reverse the situation?

Another agent has a new listing at $500,000, which I think is an absolute rip-off and completely overpriced. So I blog about what a beautiful home it is, but my opinion of value is substantially less than the list price and suggest it will only sell for $400,000. Have I violated the Code of Ethics now? Is my statement false or misleading if I believe it to be true and accurate? Until the property sells, if I can make an argument with comparable properties, have I made a false or misleading statement? If the property eventually sells for the price I state is reasonable, does the listing agent have a valid ethics complaint against me? Even if I’m right about the value of the property, have I implied in my criticism of the initial pricing that the other agent has knowingly taken an overpriced listing or inflating their estimate of value to get the listing?

Here’s my concern: If all a Realtor that blogs is allowed to write about another agent’s listing is positive cheer-leading or nothing at all, it seems that the real estate industry has made a huge strategic blunder.

Sellers and buyers are having plenty of conversations online about the value of properties. I think it is ridiculous to silent the critical voice of real estate professionals who make their living about accurately knowing the market and the value of a property. At the same time, though, I don’t want to see real estate blogs and forums become a venue for trash talking others.

How do you handle blogging about listings?

Matt Fuller brings decades of experience and industry leadership as co-founder of San Francisco real estate brokerage Jackson Fuller Real Estate. Matt is a Past President of the San Francisco Association of Realtors. He currently serves as a Director for the California Association of Realtors. He currently co-hosts the San Francisco real estate podcast Escrow Out Loud. A recognized SF real estate expert, Matt has made numerous media appearances and published in a variety of media outlets. He’s a father, husband, dog-lover, and crazy exercise enthusiast. When he’s not at work you’re likely to find him at the gym or with his family.

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24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Daniel Bates

    January 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    I am a Broker and real estate blogging coach and find it interesting how agents decide to cover other agent's listings (despite my coaching). The broad majority will not list more than an address in passing (i.e. a hot sheet or list of homes in a specific niche). Some agents will copy and paste a hot listing straight from the MLS (probably 50/50 whether I see them give credit). Rarely do I find someone really putting themselves out there in terms where I would even begin to think they are violating any code of Ethics and I think it's because we're so scared of lawsuits.

    I like to examine good deals from different angles. Your typical agent is going to give you just the facts. I can write a post with a single picture of that listing (I always take my own, because I do believe that that MLS photo is the agent's property) and mention the price and the listing brokerage but then go on to examine the listing from a rental perspective or compare it to a different type of home to show it's value. I'm not selling the listing, I'm using it to demonstrate my services though. At the end of the day when the consumer sees both articles (mine always rank better though), who do you think they want to contact about the listing, the one that gave them information available on every website or the one that told them something that no one else would?

    A final thought I've had is to do walkthrough videos of other agents listings. I'm a little nervous about how that will be perceived and whether a broker would grant permission for that (now look who's afraid of getting sued) so I've thought about making them private and sharing them behind a password protected site where access is controlled by me (theoretically to clients), but I'd love to hear other agents' thoughts on video and photography rights?

  2. Matt Thomson

    January 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Doesn't matter how many times it comes up, still an interesting and difficult question. Our MLS offers "Blogging" as a mandatory category when inputting a listing. We can check if we want to prohibit blogging. I don't often blog about other agent's listings, but when I do I obtain email permission.
    I want something in writing saying the agent is okay with it.
    Then, I really only write the nice things (I'm not going to make many friends getting permission to blog nasty things about their listings).
    If I don't have anything positive to say about it, why blog about it?

  3. Houston Real Estate Guy

    January 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. My belief is that we should always follow the proper internet protocol and never slander anyone or any company.

  4. Hugo Torres

    January 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    The public has the right to opine and share their thoughts publicly on nearly anything imaginable.

    Social networks thrive on peer review and they therefore encourage with badges, points, etc.

    When it comes to Real Estate, one of the most fiscally impacting transaction of most people, it seems foolhardy to not seek the advice of a professional whose knowledge of the market can help a prospective client seek the best deal possible.

    How in today's day are REALTORS supposed to showcase this priceless commodity I call – KNOWLEDGE if they are not allowed to display it for the world?

    The trouble lies is that critical writing is a skill that takes years to wield appropriately. Many of those who would take to the web to share their opinion would do so without regard to how their words could harm a seller or a buyer who sees their "opinion" as truth even if they don't make references to sources or credible data.

    But just because a few bad apples may put their foot in their mouth doesn't mean that responsible and knowledgeable agents shouldn't share on the world wide web. To the contrary, their words could help educate the public and other agents and that is truly a wonderful gift.

    @hugorealtor

  5. Michael Corley

    January 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I think any broker whose interested in growing their market share and increasing their revenue should embrace blogging about other agency listings, provided your analysis is based on market factors that are not in dispute and the broker blogging isn't attacking another agent's business practices.

    Editorial opinion is a long accepted practice and can be found in other professions where competing opinions exist.

    Market value for any assets is nothing more than an informed opinion.

    NAR's code of ethics isn't a replacement for codified agency and business laws in the state your licensed in.

    Make blogging your way of demonstrating real value to consumers in the marketplace you provide service to and divorce yourself of the idea you make money solely at the discretion of MLS brokers.

    Consumers (both homeowners and buyers) will find your value proposition vital in a difficult market.

  6. Marlow Harris

    January 12, 2012 at 3:39 am

    Our MLS prohibits writing about or advertising other agents listing without their permission.

    Because of that, we tend to write only about interesting, beautiful or unusual properties. As Matt points out, one wouldn't ask for permission and then write snarky comments about another agent's listings.

  7. Matt Fuller, GRI

    January 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments – our association does not (as far as I know) have a specific policy with regards to blogging listings…

    I've always felt that the Golden Rule is the best one to follow, but I've always been intrigued by how vague the guidelines seem to be.

    Michael C. – When it comes to a pricing analysis with a listing agent, any time you take issue with the list price being too high I'm pretty sure the market factors will be disputed 😉

  8. Smith John

    March 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Hi Matt,

    I agree with you your article and especially by the point that Its not good to discourage any other person in your profession or in the related profession by your comments, its totally out of ethics not only in real estates but in all of the professions every where in the world.

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Opinion Editorials

20 bullsh*t buzzwords that should be banned from tech forever

(OPINION) As the language of tech ebbs and flows, there are linguistic potholes so over-used, so annoying, they make you want to scream. Here’s 20 of the worst offenders.

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buzzwords

There’s specific lingo in any industry. Buzzwords, if you will. Get a group of friends who work together for beers after clocking out, and chances are you’ll get lost quickly once they start trading war stories – outsiders beware.

But, there’s one community who puts even nurses (marry a nurse, and you’ll learn what prophylaxis means) to shame with insider speak and bullshit buzzwords: the tech community.

Tech folks are like business and marketing people but mutated. There’s so much free-flowing jargon that goes unchecked and evolves a la Origin of The Species within days. The words and phrases become gospel and, before you know it, people are sharing these nonsense phrases that become the industry norm, leaving anyone on the outside scratching their heads, trying to decipher the tech code.

But, as the language of tech ebbs and flows, there are linguistic potholes so over-used, so annoying, they make you want to scream. There are words used so out of context that make you want to turn them into a snarky meme and pass it around the office because you’re a jerk like that. (Well, I’m at least a jerk like that.)

These are some of those words.

The words that need to die a horrible, 24 hour, “what does it all mean” death.

Words that should be locked away in a prison so vile Charles Manson would be like, “Nah, bro. I’m good.”

Please don’t use these words in your marketing, pitch meetings, or just ever. They suck.Click To Tweet

Strap in and lock it down, here we go:

1. Sync
Can’t we just say “everyone knows what’s going on” instead of sync? This is one of those metaphors alluding to tech as melded with the products and culture, serving as interchangeable. We’re people, not iPhones to be plugged into our laptops. We don’t need to sync. We can meet up.

2. Robust
Robust is coffee, a strong tea you imported from India. It’s not a tech software experience. A can of Folgers can claim to be robust, your project tool cannot share this claim.

3. Pain point
Are we still using this one? A pain point is an elbow that’s got an owie, not what a customer thinks sucks.

4. Delight
I’m delighted to eat an excellent meal or get an unexpected call from an old friend. I’m delighted to leave work early to have drinks. I’m not delighted to use enterprise software. Sure, it makes my day easier. Does it offer a view of heaven when I can use self-service? I think not.

5. Disrupt
One of the godzillas of Jargon Mountain. I get that this worked in context a few years ago. But, now? You’re not “the Uber of…” and you’re not “disrupting” anything.

You built a parking app, Pat. You didn’t change the world.

If you dethrone Facebook, you’ve disrupted the world. ‘Til then, keep your pants on. Your algorithm for the best pizza place in town ain’t changing the block, let alone the face of communication.

6. Game changer & Change agent
Does anyone buy into this one? Was the game changed? This goes in the bin with “Disrupt.”

7. Bleeding Edge
Some jerk in some office decided “the cutting edge” wasn’t enough. It wasn’t hyper progressive enough, so they labeled their work the “bleeding edge”.

If this phrase were any more douchey, it would have a neck beard and a fedora and argue the tenants of socialism on IRC with strangers while sipping Mountain Dew.

8. Dog food
Who came up with this? When did a beta test get labeled as “dog food” I’m still lost on how this one became the industry standard. “We’re eating our own dog food.” This doesn’t even make a lick of sense, people. Just say we’re testing something. It’s a lot easier.

9. Alignment
What happened to just saying you agree? I thought alignment was for tires, not for working. I’ll give you parallel, but alignment? Not buying it.

10. Pivot
Pivot is just a fancy, non-finger point-y way of saying change. And typically, that change is reacting to something not going the company’s way. “Pivoting” means reacting to bad news or undesired outcome and making everyone involved feel smarter about the process.

11. Revolutionary
Unless you’ve built software that cures cancer, does something better than Elon Musk, or gets you laid faster than Tinder, you’re not revolutionary. You’re an element of evolution in a steadily progressing world.

12. Internet of Things
I still don’t even know what the hell this means. Really. It’s one of those phrases people use and pretend to know but really don’t.

13. Bandwidth
I thought bandwidth was Internet stuff, not how busy you are at work. Can’t we say, “if you’re not too busy,” instead of, “if you have the bandwidth,”..?? These are people, not routers.

14. Low-hanging fruit
You mean the easy work? “Easy win” even applies here. But the whole gardening metaphor is tired. It’s ok to say, “Do the easy work first” in a meeting. Hiding behind a metaphorical phrase doesn’t make the work any less important.

15. Deliverables
Do we need to break everything down into words to make the process more complicated? Aren’t deliverables, just work? It’s an adjective to describe what work you’re completing… so… it’s just work. Throw in a “key, ” and you’re jargon-y as all get out.

16. Circle Back
Translation: I don’t want to continue talking about this right now, so I’m going to schedule more pointless meetings to discuss this thing I don’t understand and don’t want to talk about in a few days. Likely, scheduled on your lunch break.

17. Action item
What happened to the good ole’ “to do List”? Instead, we’ve got “action item”. You come out of a meeting with a sore ass. The boss pounds on your for the stuff you need to do. You’re up to your ears in homework, yet, it’s not work you need to do – it’s “action items, to be delivered upon.” WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?

18. Take it offline
If there was ever painful corporate-speak, this one is a granddaddy. Instead of burning minutes in a meeting, someone will announce, “let’s take it offline.” Always happens. What about, “let’s talk about this face to face,” or “I’ll swing by your desk”, or “let’s figure this out.”

We appreciate you not annoying the rest of us with your A+B problem, but we’re not all living in the matrix. Or, at least we think we’re not.

19. Buy-in
Committing to something – a culture, an idea, a feeling. We’re equating life to a poker game and expecting everyone to get the idea, too. So lame.

20. Rockstar – Ninja – Wizard – whatever descriptive verb
This one. Holy horse crap. Can we PLEASE STOP with trying to slap a descriptive label on good work? I get it. You want to exclaim your person is a badass, and they’ve got chops. But this labeling of people in fantastical ways just sucks. When did the craft of a ninja, or the fantastical abilities of a wizard relate to code? And the rockstar thing?

Dudes, you’re not Keith Richards, you wear a startup hoodie and complain when you’re not getting free lunch at work.

Also, these names suck because they imply some male-dominance-cum-brogrammer mentality. They’re shadowy ciphers that are such machismo, it’ll barf up a steak. When a woman gets labeled a “ninja” it’s in an entirely different context, and that’s not cool. Writers have to get creative and use terms like “acrobat” or “juggler” to give off a sentiment of equal playing field, and it’s obnoxious. Just stop with these lame titles.

And there you have it. 20 bullshit buzzwords that should be banned forever and ever. Comment away, and add the jargon you loathe in the comments section. If it goes well, maybe they’ll ask me to write a part two, and we’ll make even more people mad.

This editorial was first published here in 2017.

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Opinion Editorials

Study says women need to be seen as “warm” to be considered confident

(EDITORIAL) A new study reveals that despite progress, women are still successful when they fall into a stereotype. Let’s discuss.

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selflessness hard working entrepreneur

About 15 years ago, I took a part-time job in a mental health clinic handling bookkeeping and billing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I attacked the job with what I felt was confidence. For the first few days, I simply felt as if I was an imposter. I kept asking questions and pushing forward, even though I didn’t make much progress. Within just a few days, I felt the hostility of the office manager.

It got progressively worse, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d done to make her so confrontational with me. I thought I was pleasant and respectful of her position, and I was getting along with the other employees. When I talked to our boss, I was told that I intimidated the office manager. HUH? Me? Intimidating? I was a complete mess at the time. I could barely put together a business casual wardrobe. My emotional health was so fragile that I rarely went anywhere new. And she found me intimidating?

Researchers have been studying how people judge others. Susan Fiske, researcher out of Princeton, found that competence and warmth are two of the dimensions used to judge others. Based on that research, Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, and Natalia Karelaia studied the competence and warmth at a software company with 236 engineers.  Guillén and her team collected data at two separate times about these engineers and their confidence and influence within the organization.

They found that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”

We encourage women to be confident, but based on current research, it may not be enough to close the gender gap in the workplace. A woman must be seen as helpful and dedicated to others to have the same influence as a man. As a woman, it’s easy to be seen as the #bossbitch when you have to make tough decisions. Those same decisions, when made by a man might be considered just “business as normal.”

I guess the lesson is that women still have to work twice as hard as men just to be seen as equals. I know that I have to work on empathy when I’m in an office environment. That office manager isn’t the only person who has thought I’m intimidating. I’ve heard it from it others, but you know what? As a self-employed writer, I’d rather be seen as undeterred and daunting than submissive and meek.

This editorial first appeared here in 2016.

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Opinion Editorials

Don’t avoid starting a business just because you’re broke

(EDITORIAL) If money isn’t always a prerequisite to entrepreneurship, how can you start something from nothing?

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starting a business

Breaking into the business world can be an intimidating venture, especially if you don’t have the money or experience to back up your ambitions. Experience, however, can be earned – or at least approached through a “fake it until you make it” style approach. But what can you do if you dream of launching a business but you don’t have the cash? Is money a prerequisite to entrepreneurship?

Money helps but isn’t a requirement for those hoping to start their own business – you simply need to get creative. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few things to consider.

One of the best ways to build your confidence around the topic of entrepreneurship is to refocus your attention towards those who also started from nothing, but have since made it big.

Steve Jobs started out tinkering in his garage as a teenager and went on to found the tech giant Apple, while multimillionaire consultant Sam Ovens publically discusses his finances – he was broke just a few years ago but had made over $10 million dollars by the time he turned 26.

Such stories attest to the fact that anyone can ascend to great heights.

Even though many people think money is the most important part of any business endeavor, successful people will tell you that true self-understanding far outranks cash on the list of necessities. Take some time to reflect on your goals and on how you view yourself as you pursue them.

If you think you can’t achieve your goals, then you won’t be able to. The mind is a very powerful thing.

If introspection reveals that you’re low on self-esteem, work on improving your view of yourself and begin developing a more positive perspective. You may find it helpful to write down what you think and then revise this description, working all the time to internalize this improved view of yourself. Though it may seem like a pointless process at first, you’re actually participating in your own transformation.

Another key determinant of success that far surpasses money is passion.

People succeed when they pursue goals that matter to them on a deeper level.

Typically this is the case because passion leads you to accumulate expertise on your chosen topic, and this will draw people to you.

One incredible example of the transformation of passion into profit is 17-year-old Jonah, who makes thousands of dollars a month selling watches online. Jonah comes from a family of jewelers, so he had ready access to the necessary knowledge and cultivated an outstanding selection of timepieces on his site, but it was his ability to combine his material knowledge with real understanding of his customers that made his business successful.

At the end of the day, he wanted his customers to have the perfect watch, and he brought his own passion for the field to bear on creating that experience.

Finally, if you hope to start a business but don’t have any cash resources, the best thing you can do is learn your field and network with those in it – without bringing them on board as professional partners.

It helps to have contacts, but you can’t grow a fledgling business by paying others to do the hard work.

Hunker down and work from home, working at night if you have to keep your current job, and start from the position of humble aspirant. If you show you’re committed to the real work of starting a business, you’ll find that others support you.

If you hope to start a business, but don’t have the money, don’t despair – but also don’t put your dream on hold. The only way to build the foundation you need to live that dream is by doing the hard work in the here and now.

Lots of people started just where you are, but the true successes are the ones who had the courage to push past the barriers without worrying about the financial details. You already have what you need, and that’s the passion for innovation.

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