Is real estate blogging advertising?

Or is it both advertising and journalism? What rights should bloggers have? How does one define “advertising?”

When contemplating this article, more questions than answers presented themselves, ultimately arriving at the most appropriate answer to the title question – “maybe” and “it depends”. Painting all real estate blogs with the same broad brush is irresponsible and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the evolving medium known as “blogging.”

There may not be one answer to this question. Those “bloggers” who do nothing more than post their listings and say, “if you ever want to buy or sell, please call me!!!” probably don’t subscribe to the same set of blogging standards, both ethical and professional, as those who do not blatantly beg for business. Other Virginia blogs that post relevant information and analysis do hold themselves to a certain higher code or standard. But differentiating the two may prove to be a legislative nightmare where nobody wins and everybody loses. (except for the LCD)

Some (many of the newer generation) real estate blogs were started purely to garner business. Others, such as this one, were started to provide information, analysis and opinions on the market. I’ve happened to earn some clients from my efforts here, but that was never the specific and primary intent (I’d be lying if I didn’t hope that somebody would contact me because of the blog).

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Real Estate Board sent out its quarterly newsletter recently with an article that stated the following regarding real estate advertising:

For a web site, either the firm or the licensee must include disclosure of their status as a real estate licensee in a prominent place, or have an easily identified link to such a disclosure if the firm or licensee owns the webpage or controls its content.

For emails, blogs, and bulletin boards, disclosure should be provided at the beginning or the end of the email.

Are websites and blogs so different that they need to be regulated differently?

Aren’t blog readers generally savvy-enough to determine whether the author is or is not a licensed Realtor? Hint: look for the ubiquitous “About” page. Having to have a six-line identification at the end of every post and comment would accomplish a few things.

1) Unnecessarily clutter the blog
2) Appear to be talking down to the reader
3) Enhance the perception that all real estate blogging is strictly advertising. (It’s not.)

Must we regulate to the lowest-common-denominator? With regards to both real estate agents (not necessarily Realtors) and consumers?

When participating in or hosting a blog or chat for real estate business purposes, be sure to disclose your status as a licensee and the name of your firm PRIOR to offer to provide licensable services or disclose in text visible on the same webpage that contains the chat session or blog, especially if the licensee controls the web site hosting.

The world of new media is too large, too fluid and too misunderstood by those writing the regulations to be covered by a “one-size fits all” system. Look no further than the diversity of the arguably arbitrary “top 20 real estate blogs” – stipulating that they’re not all from Virginia, how many advertising rules would it take to regulate these effectively? One difference that does not seem to be recognized yet is that real estate blogs are largely self-regulating.

What about this – if blogging is advertising, how does that fit with the possibility that bloggers are also journalists? (temp free link)

After an extended detour during which the means of mass communication effectively rested in the hands of the few, technological developments, with the Web at its foundation, are unwinding that process and democratizing communications as a whole, and journalism in particular. Today, it is apparent that people operating outside of traditional media organizations (including many bloggers), individually and collectively, play a significant role in breaking, analyzing and distributing news. This seems certain to continue, as more and more people take to the Web in an effort to share information and ideas.

Can one effectively straddle both? At what point would one have to choose? Is the article you are reading now “advertising”?

Below the fold is the full text of the article, not blockquoted to preserve readability.


“In the twenty-first century, real estate advertising now takes many forms … from traditional print media to the Internet, chat rooms and blogs. It is important to remember that disclosure of your status as a real estate agent is important in all forms of advertising.

For online advertising, disclosure means (1) the advertising contains the firm’s name, city, state of firm’s main office or (2) the advertisement contains the licensee’s name, the name of the firm with which the licensee is active and the city and state in the licensee’s office is located.

In all instances — including classified ads — the firm’s name must be provided.

For a web site, either the firm or the licensee must include disclosure of their status as a real estate licensee in a prominent place, or have an easily identified link to such a disclosure if the firm or licensee owns the webpage or controls its content.

For emails, blogs, and bulletin boards, disclosure should be provided at the beginning or the end of the email.

An acceptable email signature would look like this:

Jane Doe, GRI, licensed salesperson in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Happy Daze Realty
1500 Sunshine Circle
Richmond, VA 23225
804-999-9999 Office
804-222-2222 Cell

When participating in or hosting a blog or chat for real estate business purposes, be sure to disclose your status as a licensee and the name of your firm PRIOR to offer to provide licensable services or disclose in text visible on the same webpage that contains the chat session or blog, especially if the licensee controls the web site hosting.

Keep in mind that we need to inform the public of our licensee status when we share real estate related information or whenever we are sharing our expertise, even online.”

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10 Comments

  1. Jay Thompson July 20, 2007 at 16:42

    Great post Jim. Though I didn’t start my blog inorder to gain clients, it has happened. Like you, I blog to inform and learn. I don’t put listings on my blog. But clients do happen…

    To seperate blogs and web sites seems rather short-sighted. A blog IS a web site. I’m not about to attach a “signature” to every blog post. I think it’s abundandtly clear to any visitor/reader of my blog that I’m a real estate agent.

    Arizona has yet to seperate blogs and “classic” websites. Probably because “they” aren’t sure what a blog is (or the thought hasn’t even crossed their minds yet). I set my blog up to comply with the regs for a web site – that being brokerage identification “above the fold”.

    PS: your link to the “Top 20” real estate blogs is pointing to a “green” article”.

  2. Albuquerque real estate July 20, 2007 at 18:08

    Excellent article. Realtors can blog for a variety of reasons, but as long as they create quality content positive results are sure to follow!

  3. Jim Duncan July 20, 2007 at 20:19

    Jay –

    Thanks for stopping by. I fixed the link.

    And regarding “Albuquerque real estate” – I am debating marking your post as spam, as you sem to be using a third-party to post comments for you. If you don’t mind, please elaborate on your service.

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  5. 4MySales July 23, 2007 at 00:41

    People blog for any number of reasons. Most real estate agents start blogging because of a desire to market themselves online, but many find it very therapeutic to just write their thoughts and interact with peers online.

    -4MySales

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  10. Carter Ritchie October 17, 2011 at 19:29

    Thank you Jim.  I see a big difference between a well thought out blog and listings thrown up on wordpress (maybe even IDX) but I agree that it is virtually impossible to determine where the exact line is.