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?