“Starter home for small family,” “DM me for details,” “Bachelor’s pad,” “Adult community” and “Your professional Realtor” — what do all of these social media captions have in common? They may make a big ol’ mess of your business.
Below we’ll look at them one-by-one and expose the problem.
‘Starter home for small family’
If you have had visions of being the condo king or queen of your market or the suburban sales leader, then you may have used such seemingly quaint terms like, “bachelor’s pad,” “growing family,” and the like to describe who you think would like to live in a particular real estate residential property. These “charming” adjectives can land you in a mess of trouble.
Why? Familial status (a.k.a whether a person has zero or 10 children) is a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing Laws. If you are a little fuzzy on what violates Fair Housing, here is a review of key laws and presidential executive orders.
I can sense some of your grumbles:
“But this tiny house is perfect for a bachelor!”
“This cottage style range is perfect for empty nesters!”
“This _____ (fill in the blank with your current listing) is perfect for ________ (fill in the blank with your ideal person)!
Here is a simple solution and better alternative: Stop describing people altogether, and focus on only describing the property.
We have a rare privilege in our sales industry where we do not ever have to discuss who (and certainly who is not) ideal for a home.
For example, “bachelor pad” can easily be described for what it is: A studio loft, a one-room tiny home, a one-bedroom condo and so forth.
Do you see the difference?
It’s not our jobs to say who can or cannot enjoy a particular home. We simply describe the features of the home and let our marketing audience choose what works for their situation. Anything else may mess with your money, real estate license and freedom.
On topic with familial status, I know you may be wondering, “I am marketing a 55-plus community so what’s wrong with saying, ‘Adult community’?” You are right! If it is a bonafide 55-plus community then they receive the “Housing for older persons” exemption.
But is the community truly qualified for this exemption? If it is not, then you will be on the hook for any discriminatory marketing practices. Be careful and proactive (trust, but verify) to ensure that any 55-plus community you are promoting actually complies with the requirements.
‘DM me for details’
On the surface, there may seem to be nothing wrong with asking your social media audience to direct message (or call, text message or email) you. But the issue comes into play when we are promoting a real estate property with no mention that we work for a brokerage.
Furthermore, some states, such as here in Georgia, require that the brokerage’s name and phone number be equal or larger in size and prominence than that of the agent’s name and phone number.
In other words, the brokerage cannot be an afterthought (or forgotten thought) in our social media posts that promote properties. Don’t see how this can mess up your business?
Remember when this agent was fined $450 as a warning from his local Realtor association? He could also have had his “hand slapped” by his brokerage firm and local real estate commission, meaning potentially additional fines, dismissal from the firm or even a loss of his license if his infringement was found severe enough to warrant a drastic punitive response.
To add insult to injury, other firms can access his violation record in hiring considerations, which may ostracize him like he wears the scarlet letter.
‘Your professional Realtor’
Have you seen your favorite social media influencers add some tagline like “Your neighborhood Realtor,” “Luxury Realtor” or “Your Miami Realtor” to their profiles and posts? You liked it so you do it too, right?
This is messy!
The National Association of Realtors explicitly says that this trademark may not be used with descriptive words or phrases.
Remember when a popular Facebook page (formerly facebook.com/socialrealtor) with over 47,000 followers was deleted because of its misuse of the Realtor trademark? It was eventually reinstated without the trademark violation, but I have seen smaller user accounts get nixed and never reinstated.
Can you imagine all your time and energy spent on social media being annihilated simply because you do not know the trademark rules? Stay current, and try to maintain a separate database!
Need a refresher on using the Realtor trademark? Click here.
The moral of the story
On social media, we may see great content from other industries that seem to fuel engagement, leads and business growth, and we decide to duplicate their savvy strategies.
For example, here is a popular template from the respected SocialBakers that may be great for other industries but will land us in “hot water.” Can you name issues? This gets really messy because the real estate industry is a highly regulated industry, which may not be true of your favorite social media influencer.
Worse yet, perhaps you have seen other real estate professionals reaping the market share from using such violations without any semblance of trouble. But hear me, dear friend, do not develop your social media strategy simply based on what others are doing.
We must never blindly copycat others because to quote the parental cliche, “If everybody jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” It may indeed be time to make a business leap but just make sure you have your bungee cord, safety net or some other key protection so you can stay mess free!
Lee Davenport is a licensed real estate broker, trainer and coach. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google+, or visit her website. This post comes from her book, Profit with Your Personality.