It’s the one constant in life: Change. The Florida Real Estate Commission has a new set of rules. While they’ve been coming for a while, the deadline is fast approaching. Whether you’re a licensed REALTOR® or a real estate agent, the new rules cover brokerage office procedures and team advertising.
These rules have been discussed for a few years, going up for vote in 2017. Most real estate professionals have seen it coming, but the July 1, 2019 deadline is imminent and looms over businesses.
Why the Change?
The Florida Real Estate Commission believed that many team names were actually the name of a real estate business - which is not allowed. The Commission received numerous complaints over the years from consumers who did not know who they were working with or what brokerage.
Some complaints were that they did not know who on what team they were working with and they had no idea who showed up to the appointment. This confusion, according to the Commission, could be cured with more specific rules and less deceptive advertising.
A real estate professional who is not a broker cannot suggest the team or group is a separate real estate brokerage or company. The new list of forbidden words below all indicate a real estate brokerage business. It simply had become too deceptive to the general public. Only a broker can own and operate and register a real estate brokerage business, not sales associates or broker associates.
An Overview of the New Rules:
Team marketing is defined as multiple real estate licensees representing themselves as a team to the public. Licensees featured in team advertisements must be under the same broker or brokerage.
All advertising must be in a manner in which reasonable persons would know they are dealing with a team or group. The new rules also require Brokers to choose a team member to review all advertisements, and team names cannot be larger than the brokerage logo. Finally, brokers must maintain a current list of team members that is updated monthly."
The big issue already causing stress and anxiety has to do with team or group names. Real estate team or group names may include the word “team” or “group” as part of the name. However, the following words or ANY likeness or similarity of the words are prohibited from team advertisements:
- Real Estate
There’s a deadline to know. All advertisements must comply with these requirements no later than July 1, 2019. Nothing in this rule shall relieve the broker of their legal obligations under chapter 475, Florida Statutes, and division 61J2, Florida Administrative Code.
Unless otherwise provided, the rules apply to all mediums of advertising including print, radio or television, and internet. This includes but is not limited to advertising like signs, billboards, email, business stationery, business cards, business documents, signs, logos, newsletters (print or email), or anything of a similar kind of use for a similar purpose as any of the items set forth above. Essentially, everything is advertising.
Of course, you likely have questions. Here are a couple paraphrased from OneBlue.com:
Question: What about website domain names? Can my team or team members have a domain name that includes any of the forbidden words?
Answer: Yes. FREC agreed that a domain name may contain a prohibited word. However, this answer applies to the domain name. They also agreed that an email address (for both a team and team members) may contain a banned word. So while email addresses and domain names may contain words banned in the rule, your team name can no longer match your domain name or email address if it contains one of the newly prohibited words.
Question: We use small gifts for marketing, including pens with our name. Depending on the pen, we can only use a maximum of 50-60 characters, however. Do the new rules apply even when they can't logistically be done?
Answer: The Commission says all marketing advertisements relating to teams – including small trinkets and gifts – must comply with the new rules, regardless of the printer criteria. All advertising materials that advertise a real estate team or show a team logo – no matter the size of the ad – must comply with the team advertising rule. There are no exemptions for items like pens, pencils, etc.
What are you doing to prepare for the new rules? Have you rebranded? If you need to talk to a branding and marketing expert, we work within the real estate world. In fact, you can download our guide to inbound marketing specific to the real estate industry below.