You likely have questions if you’ve heard about changes the Texas Real Estate Commission made to its advertising rules. The answers below will help you comply with the new rules, which are effective May 15.
What’s considered an ad?
It’s any form of communication by or on behalf of a license holder designed to attract the public to use real estate brokerage services. This includes publications, brochures, radio or television broadcasts, business stationery, business cards, displays, signs, billboards, and all electronic media—email, text messages, social media, and websites.
The only exception to the advertising rules is communication between a license holder and his or her current client.
What do my ads have to say?
All license holders’ advertisements must include the license holder’s name or team name. Ads also must include the broker’s name in at least half the size of the largest contact information for any sales agent, associated broker, or team name contained in the advertisement. The broker’s name can be the name on the broker’s TREC license, an alternate name registered with TREC (if the broker is an individual), or an assumed business name registered with TREC. Contact information can be anything used to contact a license holder, such as the license holder’s name or phone number.
How do I comply with advertising rules in texts or on social media?
The required information—the license holder’s name or team name and the broker’s name—may be located on a separate page or on the account user profile page of the license holder as long as the account profile or separate page is readily accessible by a direct link from the social media or text. In addition, the license holder’s name or team name and the broker’s name must be readily noticeable on the account profile page or separate page that is linked.
Can I use any name as a team name?
No. A team name is a name used by one or more license holders sponsored by or associated with the same broker that is not the broker’s name or an assumed business name of the broker. Team names must end with the terms team or group. Team names cannot contain terms that imply that the team is offering brokerage services independent of the broker. Some prohibited terms are realty, brokerage, company, and associates. The terms real estate and properties are acceptable as part of a team name as long as the team name ends with the terms team or group. Keep in mind that the ad must still contain the name of the broker. Before you use a team name in an ad, the broker must register the team name with TREC.
My team name doesn’t end with team or group and is already registered as an assumed business name (DBA) with TREC. Can I use it in my advertising?
No. All team names must end with team or group and must not include the terms realty, brokerage, company, or associates. A new team name that meets the requirements of the new rules will have to be registered with TREC by your broker before you use that team name in advertising.
Can a sales agent who is the owner or president of a brokerage use that title in advertising?
No. Even though the sales agent may hold such a title, using it in advertising implies the sales agent is responsible for the operations of the brokerage. Similarly, a sales agent cannot use the title CEO, COO, or other similar title in advertising. Remember, this extends to email or website addresses.
Can I use an assumed business name of my broker in my advertising?
Yes. Before a broker, associated broker, or sponsored sales agent starts using a broker’s assumed business name in an advertisement, the broker must register the name with TREC and the broker must provide written evidence of legal authority to use such name in Texas, such as registration of the name with the secretary of state’s or county clerk’s office. A form to register a broker’s assumed business name, Notice of DBA or Assumed Name for a Broker’s License, is available on TREC’s website.
Can I use an alternate name in my advertising?
Yes. Before using it, the alternate name must be registered with TREC using the Notice of Alternate Name Used by a Sales Agent or Broker License.
Can I use a nickname or my middle name in my advertising?
TREC calls these alternate names. Before using them in your ads, you must register them with TREC. You do not need to register a name that is a common derivative of the name on your license, such as Bill for William.
How do I register my team name with TREC?
A form to register team names, Notice of Team Name for a Broker’s License, is available on TREC’s website.
Can I use REALTOR® in my ads?
Yes. Only members of the REALTOR® association may use the term REALTOR®, and only in connection with—not part of—a personal or firm name. However, the term cannot be used in connection with a team name.
How do these changes relate to the Code of Ethics?
Article 12 of the NAR Code of Ethics requires your firm and status as a real estate professional in all advertisements. According to NAR’s Professionalism in Real Estate Practice publication, “this may be accomplished by including the terms REALTOR®, REALTORS®, or by disclosing their status as a licensed broker, appraiser, property manager, or other real estate professional.” A professional standards hearing panel determines whether a REALTOR® has violated Article 12.