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Professional Standards Manual

Trading Services

2. Acting For Sellers

(k) Advertising Requirements

[03/01/2013 The following section replaced the previous sections called Advertising Requirements, Guidelines for Team Names, Internet Advertising, Web-based Social Network Advertising, and Photo Enhancing Software]

Each month, the Real Estate Council receives a large number of complaints relating to licensee advertising. In order to reduce the number of complaints, the Council has developed the following information which is designed to assist licensees in creating advertisements that comply with the requirements set out in the Rules.  The three Rules that relate specifically to advertising are:

These rules are intended to ensure the public is neither misled nor confused as to who is providing real estate services and to ensure the accuracy of representations being made about real estate and real estate services.  The Rules define real estate advertising as “any form of identification, promotion, solicitation or representation relating to real estate, a trade in real estate, or the provision of real estate services, including a sign or other notice relating to real estate, a trade in real estate or the provision of real estate services.

The following guidelines start with a checklist of the most common advertising problem areas. The Council encourages licensees to use this checklist to review their advertisements prior to publication. Following the guidelines, there is more information, including examples, about specific advertising requirements.

(i) Advertising Checklist
  • Is the full name of your brokerage, as registered with the Council, clearly and prominently displayed and easily readable?
  • If a brokerage office address is included in the advertisement, is it the correct address for the brokerage office at which you are licensed?
  • If your name is included in the advertisement, is it your licensee name? (i.e. your legal name, a recognizable short form of your legal name or a name that has been approved by the Council).
  • If you have a personal real estate corporation, does the advertisement include the name of the personal real estate corporation?
  • If the advertisement contains a team name, has that team name and a current list of team members been registered with the Council?
  • Are all the representations in the advertisement current, accurate and verifiable?
  • If a promise or offer is made in the advertisement, have any conditions or limitations been indicated?
  • If a comparative claim, business volume, honour or award is noted in the advertisement, has the basis of the claim/volume/honour/award, (e.g. the source, date and qualifying information) been included to avoid misleading the audience?

The following example displays an acceptable print/electronic advertisement.  It includes:

  • clearly displayed brokerage name
  • the name of the licensees
  • team name
  • a qualifying statement about the “Top selling real estate team” claim
  • a qualifying statement about the “List with us and we’ll donate $2000 to a charity of your choice” promotion

Acceptable Ad

(ii) Brokerage Name

All advertisements must include the full name of the related brokerage. Short forms of the brokerage name are not sufficient. For example, if a brokerage’s full name is ABC Hillside Realty Ltd., it is not sufficient to include ABC Realty, or Hillside Realty, as the brokerage name. Section 4-6(2) of the Rules requires that the name of the brokerage must be displayed prominently and in an easily readable form. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: TV ads and/or channels, all websites and webpages (including websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Craigslist, usedvancouver, usedvictoria, etc.), e-mail (and any other online identification, representation, promotion or solicitation), bus, bus shelters and bus stop bench signage, newspaper ads, yellow pages ads, brochures, flyers, sponsorship materials and signs, billboards, stadium/arena signs, automobile signs, business cards, or promotional material of any sort. In the case of radio and audio only advertising, the name of the related brokerage must be clearly stated. In assessing compliance with section 4-6(2), the Council will give consideration to the prominence of the brokerage’s name in relation to the rest of the advertisement and the relative ease with which a consumer can identify the brokerage.

The top six advertising vehicles where the Council finds non-compliant licensee advertising are: Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube.

The following example displays an acceptable Twitter page. It includes:

  • clearly displayed brokerage name
  • the name of the licensee
  • name of the personal real estate corporation
  • a qualifying statement about the “Your top selling Richmond agent” tweet
  • a qualifying statement about the “List with me and I’ll donate $2000 to a charity of your choice” tweet

Acceptable Twitter Ad

(iii) Licensee Name

If the advertisement also identifies a managing broker, associate broker, or representative, this must be done by using the licensee name of the individual. Section 4-5 of the Rules provides that the ‘‘licensee name’’ of an individual is the legal name or a recognizable short form of the legal name or the name that is approved by the Council.

Licensees with the same surname who are engaged by the same brokerage (e.g., ‘‘the Bloggs’’) may advertise together as ‘‘the Bloggs’’. Registration of the surname with the Council is not required.

(iv) Personal Real Estate Corporation

A Personal Real Estate Corporation’s licensee name is its legal name. Advertising that identifies an individual who has a Personal Real Estate Corporation must use the licensee name of the Personal Real Estate Corporation, not the individual’s name. Therefore, it is important for the controlling individual to ensure that the legal name of his or her Personal Real Estate Corporation is the name in which they wish to advertise.

For example, if Robert Vendre has a Personal Real Estate Corporation with the licensee name of Robbie Vendre Personal Real Estate Corporation, advertising must refer to Robbie Vendre Personal Real Estate Corporation, not Robert Vendre. Another example would be where Jie Wu uses the name Jeffrey Wu for advertising purposes and has registered this as his licensee name with Council. If he then wishes to licence a Personal Real Estate Corporation, he must choose whether to licence his Personal Real Estate Corporation under the name Jeffrey Wu Personal Real Estate Corporation or Jie Wu Personal Real Estate Corporation. If he registers the Personal Real Estate Corporation name as Jie Wu Personal Real Estate Corporation, he would then no longer be able to advertise using the name Jeffrey Wu as all advertising must be in the licensee name of Jie Wu Personal Real Estate Corporation. There is no requirement that the font must all be the same, but the term ‘personal real estate corporation’ must be clearly included. Continuing with the example “Robbie Vendre”, the licensee name might appear as:

Robbie Vendre
Personal Real Estate Corporation

The following examples display acceptable forms of advertising for Personal Real Estate Corporations.

Example A

PREC Ad Example 1

Example B 
If Robbie Vendre is a member of a team (e.g. The AV Team), the name of that team may be used in advertising. (See below for further information about team names.)

PREC Ad Example 2

Example C 
The name of Robbie Vendre’s Personal Real Estate Corporation may also be included with the team name in advertising.

 PREC Ad Example 3

Example D 
The following is an example of an acceptable form of Personal Real Estate Corporation advertising for newspaper/ internet or other print advertising.

There is one exception to the general Personal Real Estate Corporation advertising rule. Where advertising is generated by a database, for example the way that a board’s MLS® generates advertising like feature sheets and other forms of online listing information, and that database cannot accommodate the entire licensee name of a Personal Real Estate Corporation, the MLS® will generate ‘Robbie Vendre PREC*’ and a footnote will appear at the bottom of the information that reads ‘*PREC represents Personal Real Estate Corporation’. This exception does not apply to any situations where the licensee generates the advertising.

PREC Newspager

(v) Team Names

If the Council approves a team name for a group of related licensees, real estate advertising may also identify the group by its team name (section 4-6 of the Rules); e.g. ‘‘The AV Team,’’ where ‘‘The AV Team’’ is neither the licensed brokerage nor a registered trade name. The name of the related brokerage must always be included in any form of team advertising.

The Council has developed and adopted the following general guidelines for team names.

TEAM NAME GUIDELINES

Approvals of team names are made on a case-by-case basis. The following guidelines are applied when considering team name requests:

  • A team name must convey to the public that a group of individuals from the same brokerage (which may include unlicensed assistants) is working as a team. Team names which include the words “Group,” “Team,” “Network,” or “Associates” help to make this clear.
  • To ensure the public is not misled or confused, a team name must not give the impression of being an incorporated company or brokerage. Team names such as “Joe Blogg and Company” or “Blogg Real Estate Services” will not be approved.
  • The terms “Realty” and “Real Estate” may not be used in a team name as they may give the impression of being a separately licensed brokerage. Exceptions to this are the use of the terms “Real Estate Team” or “Real Estate Group” at the end of a name. Examples: “The Bloggs Real Estate Team” or “The Bloggs Real Estate Group.”
  • No team name will be approved that may be confused with an existing brokerage.
  • No team name will be approved that is identical to an existing, approved team name.

You will be advised in writing of the Council’s decision regarding your team name request. Typically, team name decisions are made within a week to ten days of the Council’s receipt of the Team Name Request Form. Team name approvals are sent to the requesting licensee and copied to the managing broker.

Note: Licensees with the same surname who are engaged by the same brokerage (e.g., ‘‘the Bloggs’’) may advertise together as ‘‘the Bloggs.’’ Registration of the surname with the Council is not required.

 TEAM MEMBER GUIDELINES

  • A team must include at least two people, one of whom must be licensed.
  • All licensed team members must be licensed with the same brokerage.
  • A licensee can only be a member of one team at a time.
  • It is the obligation of the licensed team members to advise the Council, in writing, when any team member leaves the team or a new member joins. This requirement also applies when a team member transfers or surrenders their licence.

All licensed team members need to be aware that as individual licensees they have an obligation to comply with all of the provisions of the Real Estate Services Act, the Real Estate Services Regulation, Bylaws and Rules. The fact that one licensee member of the team may be the ‘‘lead’’ licensee of the team in no way diminishes the other team members’ legislated responsibilities and obligations.

TEAM ADVERTISING GUIDELINES

  • Teams may identify themselves by team name in advertisements, but the brokerage name must also be prominently displayed and must be easily readable in relation to the rest of the advertisement. Including the name of the brokerage at the bottom of a website or print advertisement, in small type, does not satisfy the requirements of section 4-6(2) of the Rules.
  • All advertising that includes the names of unlicensed team members must identify them as being unlicensed.
(vi) Internet/Social Media Advertising

One of the primary purposes of the Council’s advertising rules is to ensure that consumers accessing a licensee’s advertising are aware that they are dealing with a real estate licensee and know the name of the brokerage with which that licensee is engaged.  This is particularly important for internet and social media advertising given the worldwide exposure of this advertising medium. 

Just as in print advertising, the name of the brokerage must appear in a prominent and easily readable form on all internet and social media advertising vehicles, including each individual page, e-mail, online discussion group or bulletin board, etc.

For social media advertising, licensees must include the name of their related brokerage on their profile screen.  Using Twitter or Facebook as examples, only the licensee’s main profile screen is required to contain the name of the licensee’s related brokerage. It is not required that each ‘‘tweet’’ or ‘‘post’’ contain the name of the brokerage. The rationale is that once a licensee’s profile has been accessed, the name of the brokerage is displayed, and it is known that the individual is a licensee. It is the site visitor, with that knowledge, who then chooses whether to follow the licensee’s ‘‘tweets’’ or asks to become a ‘‘friend’’, going forward. This is rather like licensees introducing themselves to a consumer at an open house; they identify themselves as a real estate licensee and present a business card with the name of their brokerage displayed. Licensees do not have to reintroduce themselves at each subsequent meeting if the consumer decides to maintain contact with them, as the consumer already knows, via the first introduction, with whom he or she is dealing.

The following example displays an acceptable Facebook page. It includes:

  • clearly displayed brokerage name
  • the name of the licensee
  • team name
  • name of the personal real estate corporation
  • a qualifying statement about the “Top selling real estate team” claim
  • a qualifying statement about the “List with us and we’ll donate $2000 to a charity of your choice” promotion

Acceptable Facebook Ad

The same rationale applies to a video blog posted on a licensee’s website. Provided that the name of the licensee’s brokerage is prominently displayed and easily readable on the website where the video is posted, it is not required that the licensee include the name of his or her brokerage on each blog segment. However, if a licensee posts a video blog on any other website, such as YouTube, the name of the brokerage must be in the title or description of the video.

The following example displays an acceptable YouTube page. It includes:

  • clearly displayed brokerage name
  • the team name
  • a description of the team
  • a qualifying statement about the “Top selling real estate team” claim
  • a qualifying statement about the “List with us and we’ll donate $2000 to a charity of your choice” promotion

Acceptable Youtube Ad

Guidelines for Common Online and Social Media Websites

Facebook: Profiles have limited characters but the name of the brokerage/personal real estate corporation/team can be displayed as a graphic in the cover photo. Better yet, a Facebook page has unlimited characters so it is easy to comply and have the page look very professional. If you are, in any way, using Facebook to ‘advertise’, your page and profile must include the name of your brokerage. If you don’t want the public (or the Council) to scrutinize your Facebook page, be sure your privacy settings are set appropriately.

Twitter:  The Twitter bio section has room for your name plus that of your brokerage. Or you can include your brokerage name in the background of your Twitter page. You do not have to add the name of your brokerage to each tweet.

Google +: Like Facebook, you can put the name of your brokerage in the cover photo or in your profile photo.  Keep in mind that the posts are the first thing displayed, not the “About” section. So if you don’t have your brokerage name in the cover photo or profile photo you will have to have it on all your posts.

YouTube:  On the “Your Channel” section of YouTube, you can put your brokerage name in the “About” section. On the “You Tube” video page you can put the name of the brokerage/personal real estate corporation/team in three areas – the “Title”, “Description” or in the intro to your video.

Craigslist and Kijiji:  It is important to ensure that the name of your brokerage is prominently displayed and easily readable on any Craigslist and Kijiji posting.

Foreign Language publications: Translations of brokerage names into other languages is not acceptable. The licensee name of the brokerage/licensee/personal real estate corporation/team must be reflected as registered by the Council.

Pinterest:  Should you post any photos on Pinterest that have to do with the real estate that you are marketing, you should include your brokerage name on the photo itself to avoid a contravention if, for example, your photo is re-pinned on another person’s board.

QRL Codes: It is important to ensure that the name of your brokerage is prominently displayed and easily readable on the link that is provided by the QRL code.

(vii) No False or Misleading Advertising

Section 4-7 of the Rules states that a licensee must not publish real estate advertising that the licensee knows, or ought to know, contains a false statement or misrepresentation concerning real estate, a trade in real estate or the provision of real estate services.

False statements are those that can be shown to be factually incorrect.  Generally, there is little room for interpretation in these situations.  The assessment of statements that may be misleading, deceptive or inaccurate, however, is more subjective in nature.

In general, licensees should assume that all statements in an advertisement will be taken at face value and interpreted based on their plain meaning.  If the licensee’s intent is to imply something else, or if the licensee is aware that the statement could be interpreted in different ways, it would be better to spell out the intended meaning in plain language, or to provide some form of disclaimer within the advertisement.  Failure to do so could result in the statement being deemed misleading, deceptive or inaccurate.

  • Promises or Offers

    If a promise or offer is made in any advertising, any conditions or limitations must be clearly indicated.  Additionally, full written details of the terms, conditions or limitations of the promise or offer must be available.

  • Comparative Claim/Business Volume/Honour or Award

    If a comparative claim, business volume, honour or award is noted in any advertising, the basis of the claim/volume/honour/award, (e.g. the source, date and qualifying information) needs to be included to avoid misleading the audience.

  • Photo Enhancing Software

    Photo enhancing computer applications make it easy to manipulate photographs in a variety of ways. When using photographs in advertising materials, licensees must use caution so as to not alter or enhance photographs in any way that would misrepresent aspects of the property. While editing out such items as a garbage can or an automobile parked in a driveway would be acceptable, removing nearby power lines or changing any physical characteristic of a property such that it results in a misrepresentation would not be acceptable.

(viii) Current and Accurate Information

Listing information must be kept current and accurate. Licensees must ensure that when listings have expired, they are immediately removed from websites. Similarly, if property information changes during a listing period, the information posted on websites should be changed accordingly.

Licensees should not advertise other licensee’s listings directly on their own website without permission from the listing licensee and if this permission is given, should not alter any of the listing information without approval of the listing licensee. If linking to an outside database of available properties, it should be clear to consumers which listings are the licensee’s and which are not.

The Council is hopeful that these advertising guidelines will be of assistance to licensees.  Licensees that are members of a real estate board should check with their local board for any specific advertising requirements that are in addition to the Council’s guidelines.