Advertising Benchmark: Present a True Picture

Kristin E. Rosan
Partner, Madison & Rosan, LLP Attorneys at Law


Advertising is a necessary form of communication for any agent’s business. Agents advertise their services and they advertise their client’s property. To generate clients, advertising is essential for agents to enhance their image as honest and trustworthy and to inform their potential customers about their services. Agents also use advertising to announce new properties and highlight a property’s characteristics for prospective buyers.

Because agents are competing for clients and competing for a finite group of buyers, their advertising must be bold and interesting, maybe even clever and unique. It may be discriminated through traditional media or in new electronic media, such as blogs, social media and websites. The ability to quickly and efficiently disseminate advertising electronically and target niche markets, encourages agents to take those extra steps to assure their advertisements are distinguishable from their competitor’s advertisements. Herein lies a risk that an advertisement does not present a true picture.

The National Association of Realtors® Code of Ethics Article 12, requires all Realtors® to be honest and trustful in their real estate communications and to present a “true picture” in their advertising, marketing and other representations. Accompanying Article 12 are certain Standards of Practice. Amended in 2018, Standards of Practice 12-10 provides useful guidance on advertising using new media. It provides that Realtors® obligation to present a “true picture” extends to Internet content, images, and the URLs and domain names they use. It also 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 otherwise misleading consumers, including use of misleading images.

Further Standard of Practice 12-12, prohibits a Realtor® from using URLs or domain names that present less than a true picture or registering URLs or domain names, which if used, would present less than a true picture.

Here are some tips to a true picture in your advertising:

  • make sure you are not exaggerating a property’s characteristics, amenities or location;
  • identify yourself in all advertising and your status as a licensee;
  • confirm you are eligible to use certifications, designations and membership logos;
  • refrain from characterizing yourself as the “top” or “#1 agent” unless you have the stats to back it up;
  • do not offer incentive programs without including any terms or conditions;
  • abstain from criticizing your professional colleagues.

The real estate industry is becoming increasingly competitive. Realtors® routinely produce exceptionally inspired and unique advertisements. Without sacrificing your creativity, take a moment to confirm your advertising presents a “true picture” about you and the properties you are offering. Avoiding scrutiny from clients and competitors will allow you to singularly focus on growing your practice in this competitive real estate market.