Don't Advertise It Without 'Authority'

Presenting a true picture in advertising, marketing, and other representations is the key concept in the Code of Ethics.

March 1, 2010

Q: Would it be ethical for me to advertise a property that appears in the multiple listing service even if I'm not the listing agent? I'd like to include information about a particular property in a newspaper ad. But I'm wondering if I need to first contact the listing broker for permission?

A: Yes, you do. There are a couple of issues to consider here. When it comes to advertising, the key concept in the Code of Ethics is the "true picture" test. Article 12 of the Code says, "REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations."

Standard of Practice 12-4 goes one step further and requires "authority" to advertise a listing: "REALTORS® shall not offer for sale/lease or advertise property without authority."

Where does "authority" to advertise a listing come from? It starts with sellers giving the listing broker permission to advertise and market their property. That authority is generally established in the listing agreement. The listing broker may have been given authority in the listing agreement to allow other brokers to advertise as well.

But just because the property appears in the MLS doesn't mean that other brokers have any right or authority to advertise the listing in a newspaper or in other media, absent permission from the listing broker. 

It should be noted that Internet Data Exchange rules of REALTOR® association–owned and –operated MLSs enable listing brokers to give other participants blanket authority to advertise the listing broker's listings on their Web sites. However, the authority granted under IDX rules does not apply to other media such as newspapers.

Bruce Aydt

Attorney Bruce Aydt, ABR, CRB, SRS, is a national real estate educator, a Missouri real estate broker, and past chair of the National Association of REALTORS® Professional Standards Committee.