No License for FSBO Ads

December 1, 2008

A New Hampshire federal court has decided that a Web site that advertises for-sale-by-owner homes does not have to hold a real estate license (Skynet Corp. v. Slattery, 2008). The site,, charges home owners a flat fee to advertise their home for sale.

The site also offers several tools, such as calculators, for the use of prospective purchasers. The site does not receive any compensation for the sale of property and does not represent itself as a real estate professional.

The Web site publisher filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s real estate license law, which required anyone providing brokerage services to hold a real estate license. The site claimed that the law would require it to hold a license in order to operate, since the statute contained exemptions for newspapers and other publications, but not for Web sites.

The Web site publisher also stated that it had been unable to get a definitive answer from the state as to whether it needed a license. The real estate commission had issued a ruling that the Web site was exempt, but that did not necessarily protect it from investigation by the state, explained the Web site publisher.

After reviewing the case, the court determined that the site did not meet the definition of broker under the law, particularly the language that defined a broker as one “acting for another.” The court also found that the exemption from licensure granted to newspapers that carried real estate advertising also applied to the Web site.

Mariwyn Evans

Mariwyn Evans is a former REALTOR® Magazine writer and editor, covering both residential brokerage and commercial real estate topics.