Notes from the Attorneys of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS Legal Hotline

Q. I have recently seen a number of homes for sale posted on some well-known community post websites. I know that at least one of these homes is currently listed with a real estate firm but the posting makes no reference to the firm. The email address listed in the ad belongs to an agent at another firm in town. Doesn’t the law require that the firm’s name be in the advertisement?

A. Yes. Whether the property is being promoted in the newspaper or on the internet, State regulation requires that the name of the brokerage firm must appear in the advertisement. State regulation 254 CMR 3.00(9)(a) States as follows:

(9) Advertising. A broker shall not advertise in any way that is false or misleading.

(a) Broker Identification. No broker may advertise real property to purchase, sell, rent, mortgage or exchange through classified advertisement or otherwise unless he/she affirmatively discloses that he/she is a real estate broker. No broker shall insert advertisements in any advertising publication or other means where only a post office box number, telephone, facsimile, electronic mail number or street address appears. All advertisements shall include the name of the real estate broker.

Q. What else should I know about advertising real estate?

State regulations and the REALTORS Code of Ethics set forth certain requirements and restrictions relating to real estate advertising by licensed brokers. Although not heavily regulated, brokers should use great discretion in their advertising techniques in order to preserve their integrity and the reputation of the real estate community in general.

Relevant Laws / Regulations:

  • 254 CMR 2.00 (Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salesmen Regulations
  • REALTORS Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual, Standard of Practice 12.
  • Electronic Guidelines

On-line or Electronic Guidelines:

Internet Advertising Policy Model Internet Advertising Rule – Information specific to the display and advertising rules found on the web, in e-mail and other electronic forums.

Regulatory Requirements

  • Every broker when advertising real estate shall clearly identify themselves as the advertising broker and not as a private party. Advertisements may not only contain a post office box number, telephone number, or street address. 254 CMR (2.04(1)).
  • Salesmen are prohibited from advertising to purchase, sell, lease, or rent any property unless done under the direct supervision and under the name of the broker by whom he/she is engaged. 254 CMR (2.04(2)).
  • No broker shall advertise property in any way which directly or indirectly discriminates unlawfully against any person or group because of race, creed, color, or national origin. 254 CMR (2.04(3)).

Code of Ethics Requirements

Article 12
REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations. REALTORS® shall ensure that their status as real estate professionals is readily apparent in their advertising, marketing, and other representations, and that the recipients of all real estate communications are, or have been, notified that those communications are from a real estate professional. (Amended 1/08)

  • Standard of Practice 12-1

REALTORS® may use the term “free” and similar terms in their advertising and in other representations provided that all terms governing availability of the offered product or service are clearly disclosed at the same time. (Amended 1/97)

  • Standard of Practice 12-2

REALTORS® may represent their services as “free” or without cost even if they expect to receive compensation from a source other than their client provided that the potential for the REALTOR® to obtain a benefit from a third party is clearly disclosed at the same time. (Amended 1/97)

  • Standard of Practice 12-3

The offering of premiums, prizes, merchandise discounts or other inducements to list, sell, purchase, or lease is not, in itself, unethical even if receipt of the benefit is contingent on listing, selling, purchasing, or leasing through the REALTOR® making the offer. However, REALTORS® must exercise care and candor in any such advertising or other public or private representations so that any party interested in receiving or otherwise benefiting from the REALTOR®’s offer will have clear, thorough, advance understanding of all the terms and conditions of the offer. The offering of any inducements to do business is subject to the limitations and restrictions of state law and the ethical obligations established by any applicable Standard of Practice. (Amended 1/95)

  • Standard of Practice 12-4

REALTORS® shall not offer for sale/lease or advertise property without authority. When acting as listing brokers or as subagents, REALTORS® shall not quote a price different from that agreed upon with the seller/landlord. (Amended 1/93)

  • Standard of Practice 12-5

REALTORS® shall not advertise nor permit any person employed by or affiliated with them to advertise real estate services or listed property in any medium (e.g., electronically, print, radio, television, etc.) without disclosing the name of that REALTOR®’s firm in a reasonable and readily apparent manner. This Standard of Practice acknowledges that disclosing the name of the firm may not be practical in electronic displays of limited information (e.g. “thumbnails”, text messages, “tweets”, etc.). Such displays are exempt from the disclosure requirement established in the Standard of Practice, but only when linked to a display that includes all required disclosures. (Adopted 11/86, Amended 1/11)

  • Standard of Practice 12-6

REALTORS®, when advertising unlisted real property for sale/lease in which they have an ownership interest, shall disclose their status as both owners/landlords and as REALTORS® or real estate licensees. (Amended 1/93)

  • Standard of Practice 12-7

Only REALTORS® who participated in the transaction as the listing broker or cooperating broker (selling broker) may claim to have “sold” the property. Prior to closing, a cooperating broker may post a “sold” sign only with the consent of the listing broker. (Amended 1/96)

  • Standard of Practice 12-8

The obligation to present a true picture in representations to the public includes information presented, provided, or displayed on REALTORS®’ websites. REALTORS® shall use reasonable efforts to ensure that information on their websites is current. When it becomes apparent that information on a REALTOR®’s website is no longer current or accurate, REALTORS® shall promptly take corrective action. (Adopted 1/07)

  • Standard of Practice 12-9

REALTOR® firm websites shall disclose the firm’s name and state(s) of licensure in a reasonable and readily apparent manner.

Websites of REALTORS® and non-member licensees affiliated with a REALTOR® firm shall disclose the firm’s name and that REALTOR®’s or non-member licensee’s state(s) of licensure in a reasonable and readily apparent manner. (Adopted 1/07)

  • Standard of Practice 12-10

REALTORS®’ obligation to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public includes Internet content posted, and the URLs and domain names they use, and prohibits REALTORS® from:

  1. engaging in deceptive or unauthorized framing of real estate brokerage websites;
  2. manipulating (e.g., presenting content developed by others) listing and other content in any way that produces a deceptive or misleading result;
  3. deceptively using metatags, keywords or other devices/methods to direct, drive, or divert Internet traffic; or
  4. presenting content developed by others without either attribution or without permission, or
  5. to otherwise mislead consumers. (Adopted 1/07, Amended 1/13)
  • Standard of Practice 12-11

 REALTORS® intending to share or sell consumer information gathered via the Internet shall disclose that possibility in a reasonable and readily apparent manner. (Adopted 1/07)

  • Standard of Practice 12-12

REALTORS® shall not:

  1. use URLs or domain names that present less than a true picture, or
  2. register URLs or domain names which, if used, would present less than a true picture. (Adopted 1/08)
  • Standard of Practice 12-13

The obligation to present a true picture in advertising, marketing, and representations allows REALTORS® to use and display only professional designations, certifications, and other credentials to which they are legitimately entitled. (Adopted 1/08)