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.

Is it a fair-housing violation for a real estate ad to include “City Park is within walking distance” or “easy walk to neighborhood schools”? Does this language discriminate against people with disabilities?

No. Advertisements with this language would not appear to be violations of fair-housing laws. HUD has indicated that ads containing descriptions of properties (e.g., "fourth-floor walk-up" or "walk-in closets"), services or facilities ("jogging trails"), or neighborhoods ("walk to bus stop") do not violate the Fair Housing Act.

See the Fair Housing category for more fair housing-related Legal FAQs.

I am preparing a farming letter to solicit listings in a subdivision. What are the rules regarding advertising to a neighborhood in which properties are already listed for sale by another agent?

Standard of Practice 16-2 clarifies that the Article 16 prohibition against engaging in any practice inconsistent with the agency relationship of another REALTOR® is not intended to prohibit general announcements to prospective clients, even though some of those announcements reach other REALTORS®’ clients. General announcements include advertisements addressed to all possible prospects in a given geographical area.

What is prohibited by Article 16 are solicitations not part of a general mailing but directed toward owners identified through current listings, signs, or other sources of information required by Article 3 or MLS rules.

While there is no ethical rule requiring that farming letters that otherwise satisfy the requirements of Standard of Practice 16-2 include a disclaimer, many REALTORS® do include some form of disclaimer to make it clear to owners and their listing brokers that their general solicitation of listings was not intended to solicit the current listings of another REALTOR®.

I’m sending a farming letter to a neighborhood where I’ve sold a home. Can I include the MLS sale price information of properties in the neighborhood in my letter?

The answer will depend on your MLS Rules, specifically Section 13 of the Model MLS Rules, which is a mandatory rule.

Your MLS can adopt either of two options in Section 13. One option allows an MLS participant to use sale price information from the MLS in advertising. The second option has limitations, and does not allow an MLS participant the right to include information about specific properties listed or sold by other participants.

Both options require the advertisement to include the time period for the information and where it was obtained from using the following format:

Based on information from the (local) association of REALTORS®/from the (local) MLS for the period (date) through (date).

Be sure to check with your local MLS to find out what your MLS Rules entail. Texas is a non-disclosure state, but that only means that sale price isn't public record. Your MLS dictates how sale-price data is used.

How can I determine if my online ads generally comply with the rules and regulations?

The following checklist of questions can help. While this list may not be comprehensive, it sets out many compliance issues.

  1. Does the ad contain any misleading statements, or does it tend to create a misleading impression in any manner? It is prudent for someone who did not design the ad to scrutinize it for any potentially misleading statements. Keep in mind that the standard is not whether a statement is true, but whether the advertisement "tends to create a misleading impression."
  2. oes the ad contain the name of the real estate firm or broker? It should.
  3. Does the ad identify the professional or license status of people in the ad? It might be prudent to identify the license status of all individuals and firms named in the ad, either specifically or globally. Use of the term REALTOR® is acceptable to identify this status.
  4. Does the person causing the ad to be published have proper authority to publish or submit the advertisement?
  5. Is the price quoted the price agreed upon by the owner?
  6. If any service is offered “free of charge,” make sure that the service is not tied to or contingent upon any service for which the REALTOR® is to be compensated.
  7. If any inducements are offered, does the ad fully describe the conditions for inducements?
  8. Is any ownership interest in the property held by the REALTOR® disclosed?
  9. If any loan information is advertised, does the ad comply with requirements of Regulation Z?
  10. Does the ad inadvertently imply a limitation or preference to a protected class that could potentially violate fair housing laws?
  11. Is the specific information related in the advertisement accurate?

What are the rules about how quickly I must remove a listing from a website once it has sold?

The Real Estate License Act and NAR’s Code of Ethics prohibit any misleading or false advertisements. If a real estate licensee advertises listings on the Internet and fails to remove the listings within a reasonable period of time after the listing sells, the licensee could be accused of misrepresenting the status of available property in his advertisement. A real estate licensee might be accused of misleading the public to believe that the licensee has an inflated number of listings. Therefore, advertisements on the Internet that concern listed properties should be promptly removed after the listing sells.

Can you briefly outline the requirements I must comply with if I put any loan information, such as the monthly payment or interest rate, in an ad?

If the ad contains loan information, those terms must be available to a qualified borrower. If a rate of finance charge is set out (interest, points, loan fees), then the words "annual percentage rate (APR)" must be used. The advertisement must state the APR and whether the finance charge can increase over the term of the loan. If the advertisement contains information about the down payment, term, payment amount, or finance charge, then all of the following information must be disclosed: down payment, term, APR, and whether the rate may be increased. Mentioning only the APR will not trigger the additional disclosures. If specific information other than the APR is mentioned, such as the loan amount, down payment, etc., then the disclosures are triggered.

Is my Web site an advertisement?

Generally, yes. The Internet is a medium in which merchants, professionals, vendors, etc. place notices and information designed to call the matter to public attention. Most "commercial" Web Sites are designed to solicit and attract business.

My Web site is designed in such a way that persons accessing the site can communicate and transact business with my firm directly from the Web site. Is my site still considered an ad?

Generally, yes. It is the electronic transmission or e-mail that is the communication vehicle through which the business is conducted. The information on the Web site is an advertisement.

Must the name of my firm be included in a newspaper ad or on my Web site? What about my broker's name?

NAR's Code of Ethics requires that the name of the firm be included in advertisements of listed properties and on a REALTOR®'s Web site. It is prudent to include the name of the firm in all ads. Furthermore, TREC rules prohibit an advertisement that in any way implies that a salesperson is the person responsible for the operation of a real estate brokerage. The broker's name should also be included in any advertisement, including a REALTOR®'s Web site, to avoid violating this rule.

I’m the listing agent for a property that has received little interest from buyers. Can I advertise that I will rebate part of my commission to a buyer to help attract offers?

Yes. The ad must disclose that the rebate is subject to the seller’s consent since the rebate is to a party you do not represent. Also, if the rebate is contingent upon certain restrictions, such as the use of a particular service provider, the ad must contain a disclosure that payment of the rebate is subject to restrictions.

Can I advertise or recommend the use of services from certain service providers such as inspectors, moving companies, or repair contractors on my website?

Yes. However, if you advertise the use of a service provider and expect to receive compensation from that service provider when someone uses his services, your ad must disclose that arrangement. Keep in mind that acceptance of certain fees from service providers may violate RESPA or other laws, so consult with an attorney about any fees you receive.  

One of our firm’s listings has a contract pending. The listing agent wants to leave the property’s status in the MLS as “active” because he believes that some agents won’t show the property for backup offers if it’s listed as “pending.” Is it an MLS rule violation to leave it listed as “active”?

Most MLS rules require that participants accurately report the status of listings and promptly report changes to that status in the MLS. It’s likely that the listing agent would be violating the MLS rules by not reporting the correct status. 

My buyer client is on day four of his 10-day termination-option period. I sent a copy of his inspection report to the listing agent along with an amendment for repairs, but the listing agent told us that his client refuses to open the report or negotiate for any repairs. What can my buyer do?

If the buyer is not satisfied with the information in the inspection report or cannot get the seller to agree to requested repairs, the buyer can exercise his right to terminate the contract before his option period ends.

A broker or seller who receives an inspection report is charged with knowledge of the information in the report even if the broker or seller does not open the report. While sellers and listing agents should review inspection reports they receive on the property, a buyer or buyer’s representative can't force them to review the reports. There is also no requirement that sellers agree to or even consider amendments requiring the seller to perform repairs to the property.

Can my unlicensed assistant call potential buyers and sellers and make an appointment for a licensed agent to talk to the prospect?

No. This is often referred to as telemarketing, and only a licensed real estate broker or salesperson may make such calls. Both the Real Estate License Act and TREC rules make it clear that all solicitation work must be conducted by licensees.

Texas' new telemarketing law went into effect last week and created a statewide no-call list. Are REALTORS® required to obtain the no-call list when making cold calls?

The telemarketing bill (HB 472) does not apply to a call made by a real estate licensee if the following conditions are met: 1. The call can not be made by an automated telephone-dialing system. 2. The solicited transaction can not be completed until a face-to-face sales presentation by the licensee occurs, and the consumer is not required to pay or authorize payment until after the presentation. 3. The consumer has not informed the licensee that the consumer does not wish to receive calls from the licensee.

Can I call a FSBO seller who is on the National Do-Not-Call Registry if I have a client who is interested in the property?

Yes. Since the call is not a solicitation, you may contact a seller marketing a for sale by owner property about your client’s potential interest—even if the seller’s number is on the National Do-Not-Call Registry. As a buyer’s representative, you may only discuss your client’s interest in the property, and you cannot use a purported client’s interest as a way to solicit the listing.

A real estate professional is prohibited from initiating a telephone call to a FSBO whose number is listed in the National Do-Not-Call Registry in an attempt to obtain the listing or to solicit other business. The rules prohibit anyone from making telephone solicitations to numbers registered in the database, and a call initiated to obtain the listing constitutes an impermissible solicitation.

A title company has offered to reimburse me for the cost of the snacks I want to provide at my next open house. Can I accept?

A title company could reimburse you for the cost of the snacks you provide at an open house if someone from the title company attends it to make a presentation or otherwise market services, since then the title company isn’t conditioning the snacks on receiving referrals. A title company providing snacks for your open house without offering normal promotional or educational activities could be seen as providing something of value to you for business referrals, which would be a violation of Section 8 of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Is it a RESPA violation for the seller to indicate a title company in the MLS listing?

No, this alone would not be a RESPA violation. Similar to a listing price in an MLS listing, a title company in an MLS listing would be considered an offer to negotiate, not a required term of the contract. However, it would be a RESPA violation if the seller conditioned the sale of the property on the buyer purchasing the title insurance from the title company indicated in the MLS.

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 brokerage, company, and associates. The terms realty or real estate 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.

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 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.

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.

What does the Code of Ethics require in my advertisements?

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.

Can I use the term "REALTOR®" in my advertisements?

Only members of the REALTOR® association may use the term REALTOR® and only in connection with their personal name and firm name. Here are rules to keep in mind:

  • Do not use the term REALTOR® as part of your firm name.
  • Do not use descriptive words or phrases to modify the term REALTOR®—for example, No. 1 REALTOR®, REALTOR® Properties, Professional REALTORS® or Commercial REALTORS®.
  • Do not hyphenate, reconstruct, expand, combine, abbreviate, or divide the term REALTOR®.
  • Use capital letters and include the registration symbol “®” for the REALTOR® trademark.
  • Use a comma to separate your firm name from the term REALTOR®—for example, Hey Y’all, REALTORS® needs a comma between Y’all and REALTORS®.

Can I use the term "REALTOR®" as part of my firm’s name?

No. The term REALTOR® can only be used in connection with—not part of—a firm’s name. Filing a firm name such as Chiltepin REALTORS®, Inc., is unacceptable. However, advertising as Chiltepin, Inc., REALTORS® is acceptable because in the advertisement, a comma separates the firm’s name from the term REALTOR®. Advertising as Hey Y’all, REALTORS® is also correct because it has a comma between Y’all and REALTORS®, but you also cannot file Hey Y’all, REALTORS® as a firm name.

Can I use the term "REALTOR®" in connection with my team name?

No. While the term may be used in connection with your personal name and firm name, that doesn't extend to team names. Teams function as groups within a firm—and do not qualify for the use of the term REALTOR®, according to NAR.

Members who are part of a team can still use the term in connection with their personal name or firm name but not as part of it. Use punctuation to separate your name or firm name from the term REALTOR®: John Smith, REALTOR®.

Can I use the term "REALTOR®" as part of my website’s domain name?

Yes, but only in connection with your personal name or firm name. The requirements to use punctuation, capital letters, and the registration symbol are not required for your website address. However, the term REALTOR® cannot be used with descriptive words or phrases. Domain names such as number1realtor.com, firstrealtor.org, or realtorproperties.com are improper uses. Domain names such as johndoerealtor.com or chiltepinrealtors.com are acceptable.

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.

Do these same rules apply to commercial real estate brokers and salespeople as well?

Yes.