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Interpretation of the Code

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Professional Standards Interpretation of the Code

Article 12 
Present a True Picture in Your Advertising and Other Public Representations 

Case #12-7: Realtor® Advertising Free Market Analysis

(Reaffirmed Case #19-9 May, 1988. Transferred to Article 12 November 1994. Revised November 2001 and May, 2017.)  Realtor® A advertised on his website as follows: “Free Market Analysis With No Obligation.” A property owner complained about Realtor® A’s attempts to solicit the listing, and the complaint was referred for a hearing before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Standards Committee. 
At the hearing the property owner testified he had called  Realtor® A to have him prepare a market analysis of his residential property, “. . . with no obligation. . .” as claimed in Realtor® A’s ads. However, the property owner said that when he and Realtor® A spoke, he explained that he would be glad to provide the market analysis, but said, “I presume you understand that when we provide this service, we also expect that if you list your property, you will permit us to serve you.” The property owner testified that Realtor® A did not press the matter at the time and did provide a market analysis. The property owner told the panel that for the next three weeks Realtor® A or one of his representatives called “practically every single day” soliciting the listing of his home. The property owner testified that on several occasions, someone from Realtor® A’s office reminded him that Realtor® A had provided a “valuable free service and we feel that you owe us  the listing of the property.” 

Realtor® A responded that he had provided the “free market analysis” as represented in his advertising, and had provided it “. . . with no obligation.” He stated that he had neither asked for nor received a fee for the market analysis. He could not understand why he was required to appear before a Hearing Panel in connection with allegations of a violation of Article 12 of the Code of Ethics. 

The Hearing Panel noted that offering premiums or prizes as inducements, or the advertising of anything described as “free” is not prohibited by the Code of Ethics. 
While Realtor® A was free to advertise “free market analysis with no obligation,” such a representation was not a “true picture” if all of the terms governing availability are not clearly disclosed in the ad or representation. The Hearing Panel noted that the statement by Realtor® A when he provided the “free market analysis” that it was “presumed” the property owner would list with Realtor® A if the property was offered for sale, and the subsequent “reminders” by sales representatives of Realtor® A about the “expectation” made the representation less than a “true picture.” The panel concluded that Realtor® A was in violation of Article 12.