Be Prepared to Defend Your Title

Advertising yourself as number one in your marketplace? Be prepared to prove it!

Complaints alleging agent violations of Article 12 are received fairly frequently by AAR’s Professional Standards Department. It is an age-old issue that travels through different regions of the state and seems to peak periodically.

If you, as a REALTOR®, are advertising yourself as the “top agent,” “top producer” or “number one in listings or sales,” you may be asked to substantiate your claim.

In Article 12 of the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics, it states:

“REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in advertising, marketing, and other representations.”

In NAR’s publication Professionalism in Real Estate Practice 2012, it states:

“Statistics indicating a REALTOR®’s sales volume and comparisons with other firms can be impressive, but if they are inaccurate, untrue, or misleading, their use injures the public and violates Article 12.”

“Dilemma 3: Ethics in Advertising” in the REALTOR® Magazine article “5 Everyday Ethical Dilemmas” tackles this issue:
The scenario: You’re looking for a way to differentiate yourself from the competition and give your marketing materials a kick. You decide on a new tagline: “The No. 1 Real Estate Agent For You.”

The risk: Stretching the truth. If your statements are truthful and accurate, it’s not wrong to tell prospects how you measure up to competitors. But when you make an advertising statement about being the “No. 1” agent, you could be misleading the public.

What to do: Making the claim of being No. 1 is perhaps the most abused or misused term in real estate advertising, [Bruce] Aydt says. If you really want to use that phrase, be careful to explain what you mean by “No. 1.” For example, cite your market share, a date range, and a specific geographic area.

Experts advise focusing on your own merits and what you bring to a prospective client rather than comparing yourself directly to competitors.If you are the number one agent in your local region and are being challenged, you should be able to provide documentation to substantiate your assertion. Most local MLSs provide statistical agent reports for leading sales or listing volume for areas such as vacant land sales, new home construction sales, condo/townhomes sales, etc. If you are advertising in this manner, be prepared to defend your title.