Can you include other broker's listings on your website?
Well, it depends....
Here are two relevant Case Interpretations of Article 12 of NAR's Code of Ethics:
Case #12-16, Copying and Publishing other Brokers Advertisements (Adopted April, 1998.)
Wanting to take advantage of the virtual explosion of the World Wide Web, REALTORŪ A, who had a respectable level of expertise in computer technology, decided to purchase a Web site design software package and set out to design his own Web site.
Understanding that his site would be greatly enhanced by providing as much information as possible, he decided he would offer two pages of listings; his own and some choice listings of his competitors. Being careful not to present a misleading picture in his advertising, he was very careful to list the company name and phone number of the listing company with each ad of his competitors listings.
When REALTORŪ B found one of her listings on REALTORŪ As new website, she filed an ethics complaint with the local Association of REALTORSŪ complaining that REALTORŪ A had blatantly and without authorization of any kind whatsoever advertised my listing on his Internet Web site and in so doing was clearly in violation of Article 12 of the Code of Ethics as interpreted by Standard of Practice 12-4.
The matter was placed on the agenda of the Grievance Committee. At their next meeting, the Grievance Committee decided that the alleged conduct, if taken at face value, could possibly violate Article 12 and directed the Associations Executive Officer to schedule an ethics hearing before a Hearing Panel of the Associations Professional Standards Committee.
At the hearing, REALTORŪ B produced a printed copy of the advertisement of her listing which had been placed on REALTORŪ As Web site. She produced a copy of her listing agreement and a photograph of the property, which matched the information in the ad. She testified that she had never been contacted by REALTORŪ A for permission to advertise her listing.
When REALTORŪ A presented his case, he showed the hearing panel several examples of REALTORSŪ providing links to sites with ads for other REALTORSŪ listings. He said he saw no fundamental difference between providing such links and actually advertising other listings on his Web site, especially when he was very careful to also give the listing companys name and phone number. He went on to argue that REALTORŪ Bs clients would be hard pressed to understand REALTORŪ Bs objection to giving their properties the additional exposure they received on REALTORŪ As Web site.
Upon the conclusion of all testimony and closing statements, the Hearing Panel met in executive session and decided that while providing a link to listings of other REALTORSŪ did not violate Article 12, by actually publishing REALTORŪ Bs listing on his Web site REALTORŪ A was not linking, but instead was advertising (by copying, as opposed to simply providing a link) without authority. In their findings of fact, the Hearing Panel also noted that even if REALTORŪ Bs clients might not object to such advertising, the lack of objection could not be assumed and would not relieve REALTORŪ A of the obligation to obtain REALTORŪ Bs specific authority and consent to advertise her listings.
The Hearing Panel found REALTORŪ A in violation of Article 12 of the Code of Ethics.
Case #12-17: Use of Deceptive Domain Name/URL (Uniform Resource Locator) (Adopted May, 2001.)
REALTORŪ X, a principal broker in the firm XYZ, was technologically savvy and constantly looking for ways to use the Internet to promote his firm and drive additional traffic to his Web site.
Being an early adapter to the Internet, he had registered, but not used, domain names that incorporated or played on the names of many of his competitors and their firms, including ABC, REALTORSŪ.
REALTORŪ X and his information technology staff concluded that one way to drive traffic to the firms website would be to take advantage of the search engines commonly used by potential buyers and sellers. They realized that when potential buyers or sellers searched on key words like real estate or REALTORSŪ or on similar words, lists of domain names would appear, and that when consumers searched the Internet for ABC, REALTORSŪ, one of the domain names that might appear would be REALTORŪ Xs domain name, abcREALTORS.com.
REALTORŪ X decided to take advantage of the domain names that he had previously registered, and pointed several that used, in various ways, the names of his competitors, including abcREALTORs.com, to his site.
In a matter of days, REALTORŪ X learned that he had been charged with a violation of Article 12 of the Code of Ethics by REALTORŪ A, the owner of ABC, REALTORSŪ , alleging that his (REALTORŪ Xs) use of the domain name abcREALTORS.com presented a false picture to potential buyers and sellers and others on the Internet.
At the hearing, REALTORŪ X defended himself indicating that, in his opinion, use of a domain name was not advertising or a representation to the public but simply a convenient way for Internet users to find relevant websites. Moreover, When websurfers reach my home page, there is no question that it is my site since I clearly show XYZs name and our status as REALTORSŪ, he continued. These complaints are just a lot of sour grapes from dinosaurs who arent keeping up and who dont realize that on the Internet its every man for himself.
The Hearing Panel disagreed with REALTORŪ Xs justification, indicating that while his use of a domain name that employed another firms name might not be precluded by law or regulation, it did not comply with the Codes higher duty to present a true picture.
REALTORŪ X was found in violation of Article 12, presenting an untrue picture in his representation to the public.