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REALTOR® running for local Board of Directors criticized for racist social media posts; where’s the line?

What is acceptable for a real estate professional to say in public, what’s legal, and when does it even matter? We enjoy free speech, but it only extends so far.



realtor promotes confederate flag

In the real estate industry, there is a lot of grey area when licensees express themselves. Governed by Fair Housing Laws, local and state laws, and ruled by the Code of Ethics (and soon, the Code of Excellence), REALTORS® are looked to for professionalism, but are also given specific freedoms under the First Amendment.

That brings us to the recent case of an agent expressing his views on illegal immigration while running for a Board position at his Realtor Association of Prince William (PWAR).

Cockroaches and the Confederate flag

Akbar Siddique of City Homes Real Estate in Manassas, Virginia set up a fake Facebook profile years ago under the name “Rony Humble,” sharing hundreds of links and pictures espousing negativity toward “illegals,” calling them “cockroaches,” and repeatedly urging that the borders be closed. For some time, his profile picture was a Confederate flag, and there was a peppering of posts about City Homes and listings.

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Although the profile was years old, it caught several people’s attention recently, who felt that the posts constituted hate speech and made for a deplorable representation of the membership (which is the job of a Board member). Controversy brewed. Some supported his free speech, others had no problem with his posts, while others felt it misrepresented the profession.

Siddique is now bowing out of the race and will not appear on the ballot. His profile has since been scrubbed of most of the offensive content and the name has changed to “Akbar S Rony.” He has failed to respond to requests for comment, so we have no explanation or denial from Siddique.

PWAR responds to the issue

April D. McMillan, Chief Executive Officer at PWAR tells The Real Daily, “The comments on this person’s personal profile page in no way reflect the views or position of PWAR, or of our state organization, Virginia Association of REALTORS®, or the National Association of REALTORS®. Licensed REALTOR® members of the real estate industry adhere to a high professional standard as established by the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics, which has existed for 100 years.”

Further, McMillan notes, “Article 10, in particular, deals with a REALTOR®’s duties to the public, stating that REALTORS® shall not discriminate against any person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity. This Code of Ethics is what distinguishes a licensed REALTOR® from a non-licensee. Our organization also has an official grievance and adjudication process in place.”

PWAR does not have plans on adding any diversity courses or addressing this specific instance directly, but offers bi-monthly Fair Housing courses for their members.

Others use this same speech online

This case is not exactly unique, you’ve probably seen people in the industry posting questionable material in public. For example, Brenda Free, AE at Scioto Valley Association of REALTORS® posted these, also with a Confederate flag profile picture; are these acceptable?

Click to enlarge.

The real question: what is okay, what is not?

We all enjoy free speech under the First Amendment, but as real estate professionals, what is done in public comes with rules. Had this fake profile been completely private and locked down, would it have been acceptable? Had this agent not been running for a Board position, would anyone care? Are statements perceived as racist not acceptable while silly posts like “Teacher: What comes after 69? Student: Mouthwash. Teacher: Get out.” (that remain on the scrubbed account) are okay?

Further, is hate speech a violation of the strict Fair Housing laws? Our sources at HUD say Siddique’s posts are questionable, and the postings are not necessarily illegal from a real estate professional, but if someone was discriminated against by this agent at any time, they’d have quite a bit of ammunition to present to a court and would “likely lose even the weakest of cases against him.”

Aside from Fair Housing, should this type of discriminatory public speech be allowed under Article 10 of the Code of Ethics? Does it rise to the level of professionalism this industry has worked so hard to accomplish as a mechanism to establish trust with consumers? Will the pending Code of Excellence obliterate this type of behavior?

It is questionable whether or not this type of speech is legal, but the consensus appears to be that it is unquestionably unprofessional and fails to rise to the industry’s standards, thereby hurting the relationship between real estate professionals and consumer, which has a ripple effect. It is our hope that Associations use this as an opportunity to rally members in solidarity and educate on what is and is not acceptable, in a truly meaningful way.

There is a real grey area here that as an industry, we must consider and examine. Tell us in the comments your thoughts; we’re interested, and we are listening.


Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

National Association of Realtors

The more communicative you are, the more you’re apt to earn

Communication is key in any relationship, but even more so when it’s the Realtor/Client relationship. Here’s why.



realtor earnings communicative

In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, Realtors need to be able to engage clients quickly and in a way that allows them to be both personable and professional. Celeste Starchild, Vice President of Move and General Manager at ListHub, gives a bit of insight on how Realtors can tap into the online market more efficiently.

One of the first thing Starchild suggests is maximizing your online presence with search engine optimization or SEO; effectively using SEO will boost targeted advertising to reach consumers when they are most likely to be ready to buy or sell a home.

She states, “search engine marketing drives high quality and high volume leads. If you have the budget, you can pay for the right to have your name and business visible to practically all consumers looking for an agent in a specific location.”

Consumers want immediate responses

This is especially important given the majority of consumers in today’s market are “digital natives.” These “digital natives” are millennials or Gen X-ers who have been around technology so long, they can’t remember a time when the Internet wasn’t at their disposal. Due to this, they tend to go online to do research because they are not familiar with doing business in-person. They also expect an immediate response, as they are used to texting and email, not phone calls and letters.

Starchild states, “consumers want immediate responses from their friends and family via email and texting. Realtors risk missing an opportunity with this demographic if they aren’t responding in a timely, informative, and personable manner.” This includes areas such as social media.

Have you notices Facebook actual lists a response time on business pages now? They do. Most businesses strive to answer messages within an hour, or risk losing business.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot

Facebook can be an extremely successful and cost-effective marketing tactic for Realtors by using predictive advertising. With this, you can target scenarios such as job relocation, marriage, child birth, and divorce, as purchase drivers and your ad will appear alongside a potential buyer’s Facebook page. This is one of the most powerful and effective ways to reach consumers, according to Starchild, as you are reaching out to them at the critical moment of decision.

Practically every interested buyer or seller will search online for information about a Realtor and read reviews about them before contacting them. This is another area Starchild suggests you examine: “It doesn’t matter where on a search list a Realtor shows up if they don’t have an updated profile with a professional headshot, listed contact information, and a few client recommendations. Failing to do [this] will ultimately lead to missed business;” and no one wants that to happen. So, take a few moments and ensure your contact information is updated and readily available as a search result so you do not miss a potential client.

Improve earnings by being communicative

Once a client messages you, you should aim to respond in the first five minutes, even if your response is automated with a promise to follow-up quickly. As long as you’re reaching out, you can increase your contact rates exponentially.

“Consumers are looking for facts and they want them now. How you respond and interact with them influences their decision on whether or not they’re your client forever, or they’re on to the next one,” says Starchild.

No one wants to miss business, simply because they forgot to respond. Automate responses, use social media, and update your Realtor profile and you’ll be on your way to maximizing your contact rates and client satisfaction.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR Board approves major MLS rule changes to take effect in January

The NAR Board has approved new MLS rules to improve transparency for consumers, all set to take effect in just a few weeks.



realtor new MLS rules

To improve transparency in a time where forces are pushing to muddy waters, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced today that proposed changes to its guidance for local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) broker marketplaces have been approved by a Board of Directors vote.

The changes seek to “ensure disclosure of compensation offered to buyer agents, ensure listings are not excluded from search results based on the amount of compensation offered to buyer agents, and reinforce that local real estate agents do not represent brokerage services as free,” according to a NAR statement.

The following changes are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2022 (per NAR):

  • (1) Reinforce that local marketplace participants do not represent brokerage services as free. While Realtors® always have been required to advertise their services accurately and truthfully, this change creates a bright line rule on the use of the word “free” that is easy to follow and enforce.
  • (2) Ensure disclosure of compensation offered to buyer agents. The change bolsters transparency and Realtors®’ existing duties and practices to talk with their clients about what services they provide and how they are compensated.
  • (3) Ensure listings aren’t excluded from search results based on the amount of compensation offered to buyer agents. This changes wording to reiterate Realtors®’ existing duty to inform clients about all relevant properties meeting their criteria.

“Grounded in our commitment to act in the best interests of buyers and sellers, we regularly review and update our guidance for local broker marketplaces to continue to advance efficient, equitable and transparent practices,” said NAR President Charlie Oppler.

“These latest changes more explicitly state what is already the spirit and intent of the NAR Code of Ethics and local broker marketplace guidance regarding consumer transparency and broker participation,” Oppler noted.

Brokers we spoke with for this story unanimously agreed that this rule update simply codifies what was already what they believe to be the modern practice of real estate.

He added, “This is another example of NAR constantly evolving to ensure pro-consumer, pro-competitive marketplaces for buyers and sellers, and brokers. NAR is proud to be affiliated with the hundreds of local broker marketplaces around the country and will continue to tirelessly pursue changes that improve the real estate experience for all Americans.”

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Real Estate Associations

You know there’s a national real estate mentorship program, right?

(REAL ESTATE) It’s been a long time coming, but the call for mentorship in real estate has been realized thanks to the new NAR program. Here’s how to sign up.



Mentor speaking with his mentee over mentorship video.

A mentor can help you grow and develop your knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, in the real estate industry, “being thrown into the deep end”, without proper mentoring, has become the norm. For years, we’ve said this shouldn’t be the case and those Realtors should be mentored so they can be set up for success. Now, the National Association of Realtors® has finally heard our cry for mentorship.

The NAR has a mentorship program that is “designed to help budding professionals in underserved areas thrive in a real estate career”. Named NAR Spire, the program will match mentees from “historically marginalized communities” with seasoned Realtors.

Those in the program will not just be exposed to the day-to-day business operations, but will also receive insights into marketing, appraisal, IT, and financing aspects of real estate. Along with that, they will be given educational opportunities, be able to attend business-related events, have one-on-one mentorship meetings, and have access to an online platform designed specifically for the program.

“NAR Spire is a groundbreaking new initiative designed and developed to drive inclusivity in the real estate industry,” said NAR CEO Bob Goldberg.

“We’ve reached beyond NAR’s walls to collaborate with partners across a number of industries,” Goldberg adds, “and we’re confident this program will help Realtors® enhance their reputation as invested, engaged and integral members of every U.S. community.”

You can join the program by completing an application form to become either a Mentor or Mentee.

After you’ve submitted your form, a program coordinator will evaluate your information to conduct a matching process. Your educational and professional background, experience, time availability, and location will all be taken into account to make a match.

When a match has been made, the Program Coordinator will provide you with your mentor/mentee contact details and make an introduction. Then, you will fill out an agreement, review guidelines, and complete an action plan.

Afterward, it’s up to the mentor and mentee to start the mentoring process.

According to the NAR website, the mentorship experience provides opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee, and I think we can agree that is true. For mentors, they will have the opportunity to coach the new kids to help them reach their full potential and also learn a thing or two in the process. For mentees, well, they will finally get the guidance they need to learn the ropes and thrive in their careers.

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