Real Estate Agents Beware of Dangers with Social Media

15 Feb

While many real estate agents and brokers utilize email, the Internet and social media as an active part of the business and personal lives every day, be wary of the dangers and risks associated with using any form of online or electronic media in a way that runs afoul of state licensing law in Minnesota.

As you know, Chapter 82 of Minnesota Statutes imposes certain requirements on real estate licensees for disclosing the name of the broker/brokerage company to whom the licensee is licensed (Minn. Stat. Sec. 82.68), identifying oneself as a licensee in all advertising pertaining to the purchase/sale/lease/exchange of property (Minn. Stat. Sec. 82.69) and other similar requirements.  While most agents and brokers are very familiar with how to follow these rules in connection with traditional advertising (signs, brochures, direct mail, newspaper, and company websites) some agents overlook these responsibilities within their personal blogs, personal websites, or when using social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

As a general rule, consider anything you do as a real estate agent that is in some way connected to marketing yourself as an agent, your company, real estate, or real estate services, as advertising.  Whether you are identifying a new listing or open house on Facebook or telling your followers on Twitter that “now’s the right time to buy investment property”, you should always evaluate whether you are properly complying with state law, brokerage policies, and the Code of Ethics (if you are a REALTOR).

Recently, in a discussion between the Minnesota Association of REALTORS (“MNAR”) and the Department of Commerce Market Assurance Division, the Department of Commerce suggested that they consider all forms of advertising as subject to the restrictions of Chapter 82 (licensing law).   For a thorough explanation, see this recent video update from Linda Modlinski, Senior Vice President of the MNAR.

You will note that the Department has stated they believe that even tweets must identify the broker/brokerage to whom the real estate agent is licensed, if the tweet pertains to real estate or real estate services.   For the uninitiated, a “tweet” is a short 140-character “update” via Twitter.  Obviously, identifying a broker or brokerage company name such as “John Doe’s International Real Estate” in a 140-character post can be challenging, but the Department of Commerce seems undeterred by the practical difficulty this poses.

While state licensing law (Chapter 82) does not identify Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or social media anywhere within the statute, but instead speaks of broad and vague issues such as “advertising”, since the Department of Commerce is the ultimate licensing and regulatory body in the State of Minnesota, it is important to carefully consider and be mindful of how they interpret Chapter 82.  Failure to adhere to or follow the law, as they interpret it, can be a risk proposition for real estate licensees.

For more information about this, or to create brokerage policies of have a risk audit of various agent marketing efforts, contact an attorney familiar with real estate brokerage and Department of Commerce regulatory actions.

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This blog entry is written by Brad Boyd, a Shareholder at Thomsen Nybeck. Brad is the chair of the firm’s Transactional Group, and his practice focuses primarily in Real Estate, Real Estate Brokerage, Business and Corporate law, and Wind Energy Law.  Brad provides legal advice, guidance, and representation related to risk management in a wide variety of real estate and business law matters.  He is counsel to the Minnesota Association of Realtors, many individual Realtors and brokerages, business clients and individuals.


One Response to “Real Estate Agents Beware of Dangers with Social Media”


  1. Know the rules of real estate advertising | e-Anchor Custom Blogs and Marketing - March 4, 2011

    […] in Minnesota in the real estate industry over how our state Department of Commerce has decided to regulate our use of social media. I have to admit I am not thrilled with some of the […]

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