When advertising real estate listings and services on social media, there are four sets of guidelines to factor in. It is important to have a firm grasp of these issues, as missteps can land you in trouble resulting in fines or worse. Those guidelines are:
- The National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics;
- Massachusetts real estate license law;
- Fair housing regulations and guidelines;
- The rules and regulations of any MLSs you belong to;
- Any applicable brokerage policies.
Whether you are posting on social media or placing paid advertisement, all real estate related posts are considered advertising - whether money is behind the post or not - and as such, all posts should comply with the applicable Code of Ethics and laws.
These laws and regulations can be at times nuanced and confusing, so we’ve assembled a guide to help you understand and stay compliant.
License Law Disclosure on Social Media
There are two main license law disclosures a licensee must make when advertising real estate in Massachusetts:
- Make clear the advertisement is from a real estate licensee;
- Disclose the brokerage affiliated with the real estate licensee.
Under Massachusetts real estate license law, all advertising of real property for sale, rent, or exchange in Massachusetts must contain the name of the real estate brokerage.
This means all Twitter posts, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and any other posts or ads on social media, including a story post, about real estate must contain your real estate brokerage within the display itself, and should make clear that the post is from a Real Estate Licensee.
While the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics Standard of Practice 12-5 provides that brokerage disclosure has a “one click away” safe harbor provision for digital advertising, the Board of Registration says that “one click away” does not satisfy Massachusetts law.
This means all posts advertising real property for sale, rent, or exchange in Massachusetts by a real estate licensee -- whether it’s a post on your personal page, in a Facebook group, or on your Facebook business page -- must identify your real estate brokerage on the post itself.
This can be as simple as having your brokerage name in your username (Jane Smith at XYZ Realty) or including it in the body of your post (This listing is offered by Jane Smith at XYZ Realty).
Remember, you do not have to pay something for it to be an ad -- a real estate-related post may be considered an ad. When in doubt, include a disclosure.
Advertising Listings on Social Media
The only listings you have the explicit permission to advertise without getting additional permission from your broker or another agent are your own.
To advertise another agent’s listings, even if you are sharing a link to a listing on your website, you are required to obtain permission of the listing agent or broker. We suggest that permission be given in writing either through email or text so that you have a record of it should you need it.
Some brokerages may have additional rules about sharing listings; if you have questions, please consult with your broker and their policy.
Fair Housing on Social Media
Fair Housing laws also apply to social media and can trip up brokerages and licensees, especially in the use of targeted advertising. As you set ad targeting filters, be sure you think about your targets to ensure you are legal and are efficiently spending your ad dollars. For example, targeting individuals with boats for homes with docks or horse lovers for a house with a barn are ad targeting filters can be quite powerful and are legal.
However, targeting 25 to 35-year-olds for a starter home or families with children for a house close to a school would violate fair housing laws. It is important to keep in mind when targeting by geography that your locations consist of diverse groups that would include multiple classes, incomes, religions, and statuses. It is best to be inclusive rather than exclusive with ad targeting to avoid triggering a fair housing violation.
According to HUD guidelines, all advertising of residential real estate for sale or rent should contain an equal housing opportunity logotype, statement, or slogan as a means of educating the home-seeking public that the property is available to all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. The choice of logotype, statement, or slogan will depend on the type of media used, and, in space advertising, on the size of the advertisement.