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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

6 skills humans have that AI doesn’t… yet

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unreasonable to be concerned about the growing power and skill of AI, but here are a few skills where we have the upper hand.

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Man drawing on a roll of butcher paper, where AI cannot express themselves yet.

AI is taking over the workforce as we know it. Burgers are already being flipped by robotic arms (and being flipped better), and it’s only a matter of time before commercial trucks and cars will be driven by robots (and, probably, be driven better).

It may feel unnerving to think about the shrinking number of job possibilities for future humans – what jobs will be around for humans when AI can do almost everything better than we can?

To our relief (exhale!), there are a few select skills that humans will (hopefully) always be better at than AI. The strengths that we have over AI fall into 3 general categories: Ability to convey emotion, management over others, and creativity.

Let’s break it down: Here are 6 skills that we as humans should be focusing on right now.

Our ability to undertake non-verbal communication

What does this mean for humans? We need to develop our ability to understand and communicate body language, knowing looks, and other non-verbal cues. Additionally, we need to refine our ability to make others feel warm and heard – if you work in the hospitality industry, mastering these abilities will give you an edge over the AI technologies that might replace you.

Our ability to show deep empathy to customers

Unlike AI, we share experiences with other humans and can therefore show empathy to customers. Never underestimate how powerful your deep understanding of being human will be when you’re pitted against a robot for a job. It might just be the thing that gives you a cutting edge.

Our ability to undertake growth management

As of this moment, humans are superior to AI when it comes to managing others. We are able to support organization members in developing their skillsets and, due to our coaching ability, we are able to help others to grow professionally. Take that, AI!

Our ability to employ mind management

What this essentially means is that we can support others. Humans have counseling skills, which means we are able to help someone in distress, whether that stems from interpersonal relationships or professional problems. Can you imagine an AI therapist?

Our ability to perform collective intelligence management

Human creativity, especially as it relates to putting individual ideas together to form an innovative new one, gives us a leg up when competing against AI. Humans are able to foster group thought, to manage and channel it, to create something bigger and better than what existed before. Like, when we created AI in the first place.

Our ability to realize new ideas in an organization

Think: Elevator pitch. Humans are masters of marketing new ideas and are completely in-tune with how to propose new concepts to an organization because, you guessed it, we too are human. If the manager remains human in the future (fingers crossed!), then we know what to say to them to best sell our point of view.

Using what we know, it’s essential for almost all of us to retrain for an AI-driven economy that is most likely just a few years away. My advice for my fellow humans? Develop the parts of you that make you human. Practice eye contact and listening. Think about big pictures and the best way to manage others. Sharpen your mind with practicing creative processes. And do stay up to date with current trends in AI tech. Sooner or later, these babies are bound to be your co-workers.

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Opinion Editorials

Questions you wished recruiters would answer

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Job searching is anxiety inducing, and not getting feedback can be tough. What can job seekers, recruiters, and HR do to make it easier?

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Two men interviewing at a table, job searching.

Job searching can be frustrating and stressful – not to mention anxiety-driven – but also sometimes filled with hope and excitement for a new opportunity on the horizon. Most people aren’t huge fans of multiple interviews, constantly selling themselves, or the uncertainty of when an exciting offer will come their way. Here are some considerations to try to put it in to a healthy perspective.

Yes, you will feel stressed and anxious. If you can, allow yourself to accept these feelings as part of your journey in life. Take note of what can you do to move forward, and hopefully it will propel your energy into time and space that is well spent.

Just know that you are not alone on a myriad of questions that no one has really answered for you. That is mostly due to the other side of the table which usually includes Human Resources and a Hiring Manager.

Question: What is the status of my application?

Answer: It really depends. Did you apply online? Is it sitting in an ATS (Applicant Tracking System = software to track job applicants and open job requisitions)? Has anyone looked at it? Have you gone through a recruiter and are waiting to hear back? Have you sent it to a friend or former colleague who works at that institution? Do we know if this position is still open?

Ideas to move forward: If there is anyone you can get in touch with about your application, do it. Send a polite email to them asking if there’s any chance if the position is still open and/or if your application has been reviewed. If there is no one to get in touch with, keep moving forward in your job searching. ATS’s are GREAT for the employer. They help track applicants and scan for keywords. The challenge is they may not be great for the job seeker and might be sitting in a black hole. Consider that 300 job searching applications are sitting there with yours.

It’s not that you are not good enough. And it’s not that you don’t have what it takes. It’s that your resume is combined with a lot of other information and may not even have been reviewed. They may have also filled the position and didn’t take the posting down.

OR, clients change their minds all the time – maybe they are going in a new direction with this role. See if you can find out the status first. And if you can’t, move on. You can learn more about ATS here from Jobscan.

Question: May I have feedback from my interview(s)?

Answer: Most likely, no. They may give you some simple answer “You didn’t quite have the experience they were looking for” or “We’ve hired an internal applicant.” Without getting into too many details and legal guidelines (that I’m not even sure I’m aware of), company representatives often cannot give too much feedback to an interview for fear of being sued. They don’t want to be sued for ageism, sexism, etc. so it’s easier to not give any feedback.

Please excuse the gross oversimplification here, but also think about the company. They may be trying to recruit new employees for 100s of positions. If they interview even 3-5 people per position, they just don’t have the time to give detailed feedback to every interview. Try to think back to a time that maybe you had a crush on someone and or were dating and it just didn’t fit or feel right. Did you want to have to give a detailed explanation or did you just hope you (and they) could move on? Move on if it’s not a right fit. NEXT.

Question: If not a fit for this role, am I fit for other roles within the organization?

Answer: You can certainly ask this if you are given a rejection (and not ghosted). The truth is, the team (or people) you were interviewing with are most likely not concerned with too many other roles in the organization. They may not have been briefed on what others are looking for nor care – going back to the time thing, they just don’t have a lot of it.

However, it could be worth asking on the off-chance that Jim from another department did mention to them he was looking for someone like you. However, if you don’t hear back on that, definitely do not take it personally. They likely have no clue and it may take you applying to another position or another person in your network helping you to identify this other role during the job searching process.

Question: Why did the recruiter ghost me?

Answer: Honestly, I’m sorry that they did. It’s crappy and doesn’t feel good. It’s disrespectful and really doesn’t leave a good impression. I don’t have an excuse for them other than to say that they’re busy working to fill roles. It’s unlikely that they are on a 100% commission basis but if they are, think about how they need to move on to the next thing to keep food on their table. And even though most get paid a decent base salary, each role does lead to commission for them. It is part of their job responsibilities to find and hire the right talent. Recruiters have a lot of metrics they need to hit and they only have so much time in the day like everyone else. They may not have the luxury of time to follow up with every person that is not the right fit.

I still believe they should let you know, but chalk it up as something out of control, do your best to move on.

Request to HR/Recruiters

If there is any way at all that you can make sure you keep in touch with your job searching candidates (even if it’s to say you don’t have new updates), you will really help their anxiety and help them balance timelines and possibly other interviews and offers.

As this article from Evil HR lady shares, if you are unable to give them feedback regarding their rejection for a position, consider offering a couple things you feel they could approve upon. Your advice may not even be job specific but here are some ideas to consider that may be helpful to the job seeker:

  • Make sure you answer the phone with enthusiasm and not sound like I interrupted you or you just woke up.
  • Be sure to do company and role research for every single interview.
  • Dress to impress – even if it’s a virtual interview (and don’t forget to test your camera and audio before).
  • Turn off your phone and IM notifications when interviewing to minimize distractions.
  • Thank you emails or snail mail are still more than welcome and a nice gesture.
  • Google yourself and do a quick look at what a recruiter might see if they Google you – are impressive and professional details coming up? If not, you may want to work on pushing out some thoughtful content.
  • Tread lightly with insincere LinkedIn connection requests.

You cannot control the process so you must hold onto your hope and continue to make efforts. Hopefully this help shares some insights and helps to normalize this process.

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Opinion Editorials

Woman fired for premarital sex, raises questions of company culture

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) This unfortunate circumstance for a former David Ramsey employee has raised the age-old conversation of how to enforce a company culture.

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Company culture being established around a meeting table with dark colored drinks and notebooks.

America, the land of the free, and the opinionated. And in company culture, this is no different.

Over the years the US has grown and changed. A nation that over the centuries formed from the amalgamation of beliefs and cultures. Now let us be frank, there is a majority in certain beliefs and practices. Those groups can also sometimes come with rather large mouth pieces as well, but that isn’t always a bad thing. People’s moral and cultural compasses influence the world around us. Ultimately, we can create cults or communities. We can be harmful or helpful with how we choose to influence those around us.

When you combine that with economics, though, that’s when things can get tricky. The difficulties of mixing the cooperate world with morals and beliefs can get expensive. There are numerous instances of companies being sued for wrongful termination. Currently, Dave Ramsey’s company has recently come into the spotlight due to a lawsuit being filed against them by a disgruntled employee. The company culture has strict rules against certain extracurricular activities. Now usually people would think they would mean recreational drugs, but not in this case. As of March 8th, Ramsey Solutions has reportedly fired 8 employees over the last 5 years for engaging in premarital sex.

Caitlin O’Connor is the latest employee to deal with this situation. Now, while some of us may have seen this company culture and decided to just keep life and work separate, there’s another difficulty here. Ms. O’Connor has recently become pregnant, which leaves no doubt about her outside of work activities. Now there is a number of different emotions that happen here. A woman who is now pregnant is losing her job. This may be a person who has no desire to get married and now she’s thrust into unemployment for doing nothing but enjoying a part of life. It is a frustrating situation to say the least on her side.

In that frustration on the part of Ms. O’Connor, however, there are also similar issues on the part of the company. While they have set up this company culture and laid down rules for all their employees, they now have to uphold and find a replacement for this resource completely unexpectedly. It was not only clearly laid out in their company guidelines that they do not condone this behavior, nor its implications, but Ms. O’Connor openly admitted that she was aware of the implications of her actions as well. This company has built a community with expectations and is willing to uphold them. That is their right.

I remember growing up there was a cake shop in Colorado that refused to create a cake for a gay couple based upon their religious beliefs. It was back in 2012. In 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that the shop had the right to refuse service based on their beliefs, which to be honest was my expectation. However, in the process of this that particular his business has not flourished. Ultimately one has to decide whether they want to follow their beliefs in the face of economic hardship. It’s a true show of faith of course but also, is it practical.

Living your life, your way, is the point of this country. We have to remember to share that space with those who believe differently. Bringing no harm to others is one thing, but can we truly be a common people if we refuse to go outside of our own beliefs and morals?

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