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What’s a Realtor to do when the sellers’ best interests conflict with MLS rules and/or Virginia Real Estate Board regulations?
As noted in 2007,
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.
The Code of Virginia reads in part:
“Advertising” means all forms of representation, promotion and solicitation disseminated in any manner and by any means of communication to consumers for any purpose related to licensed real estate activity.
“Disclosure” in the context of online advertising means (i) advertising that contains the firm’s licensed name, the city and state in which the firm’s main office is located and the jurisdiction in which the firm holds a license or (ii) advertising that contains the licensee name, the name of the firm with which the licensee is active, the city and state in which the licensee’s office is located and the jurisdiction in which the licensee holds a license. “Disclosure” in the context of other advertising means (a) advertising by the firm that contains the firm’s licensed name and the firm’s address or (b) advertising by an affiliated licensee that contains the licensee’s name, the name of the firm with which the licensee is active and the firm’s address.
The Charlottesville MLS rules state:
No URLs (branded or unbranded) will be allowed in fields viewable by the public.
But what about real estate video? (note: this is an “unbranded” video”) As far as I know, MLS’ aren’t in the business of hosting video … so we’re left to the vendors to fill the need. But we can’t post video in the MLS if the video has branding. So … if we post an unbranded video, aren’t we violating the Code of Virginia?
What about single property websites with more information than the MLS allows?
Here’s the thing – I (and a lot of other Realtors) *want* to provide more information in the MLS – more maps, more descriptions,
more any links to schools, parks, neighborhood blogs, HOA information, GIS maps, bike routes, bus lines, but I cannot because the MLS is predicated on keeping the information limited. Sure, we have the best and most comprehensive database of property information, and the National Association of Realtors is readying their “Real Property Resource” but we need to empower the public – let them interact with the property.
The Charlottesville MLS rules, in line with many other MLS’ around the country, prevents “branding” within the MLS – meaning that single property websites, chock full of information –
Real-estate brochures often fail to highlight your home’s best features. They’re created by a rushed real-estate agent who has never lived in your house. By contrast, Hobby’s home-sale site is filled with great hyperlinked information (schools, nearby restaurants, a Google map, etc.). It offers more photos and text than you could find in other sources.
Example: The Charlottesville MLS limits the public remarks to 500 characters. 500 characters! In the age of the long-tail and the insatiable urge and demand for more information, we’re limiting the description of the properties we are marketing to 500 characters of text – no links, just text. (text is boring and so 1999)
For now, the best we can do is try to educate the public to do their due diligence … tell them to Google the address … and do our very best to ensure that one of our pages comes up … in this case, the number one result is Trulia (get that, MLS committees? We’re driving people away from our interface!) Luckily, my site comes up #2 and Nest Realty’s site #3 …
My personal philosophy when marketing properties is to put everything out there for the world to see – Buyers want information and transparency and Sellers want buyers to see why their house different and better. It’s in our Sellers’ best interests to provide as much information as possible, but we can’t. That hamstringing will come back to bite Realtors.
Realtors – let’s expand our worldview a bit – more information is good.
Consumers/buyers/sellers – educate yourselves on how best to search for homes and please understand the limited frameworks under which we are operating. A lot of us are doing the very best that we can.
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