Facebook listings: take a legal look before you leap

State laws, MLS rules may prohibit use of other brokers' listings

Real estate brokers and agents risk violating state real estate licensing laws, multiple listing service rules and the National Association of Realtos’ Code of Ethics if they display listings from another broker on Facebook or other social networking websites, according to an attorney who advises multiple listing services and real estate trade associations.

Brian N. Larson, a Minnesota-based attorney and author of the blog MLS Tesseract, advises that brokers generally can’t advertise another broker’s listings without their permission.

Although local MLS rules may permit brokers to display a reasonable number of single copies of property listings data to prospective buyers, a Facebook post to the general public is likely to violate the rule, Larson said.

To qualify as a permitted display under IDX (Internet Data Exchange) rules, a website must belong to a broker who is a member of the MLS — a requirement that Facebook cannot meet. Facebook is also unlikely to satisfy the requirements of Virtual Office Website (VOW) rules, Larson said, in part because brokers are required to establish a broker-consumer relationship.

Larson advises brokers who want to promote other brokers’ listings on Facebook to display only links leading back to an IDX site, and to restrict such posts to Facebook "Friends" who are clients likely to be interested in a property or the properties in question.

If a Facebook page is available only to a small group of a broker’s friends — clients looking for real estate in the neighborhood in which the listing lies, for example — they might be able to claim they are delivering listing information in the context of a brokerage relationship, Larson said. But under the laws of some states, that may still be considered advertising

A number of companies, including vFlyer, RealBird, Realtor.com, and Roost, offer tools for agents and brokers to display their own listings on Facebook.


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