REALTOR® Advertising Free Market Analysis

Article 12, Part 7

The Complaint

REALTOR® A advertised in the local newspaper as follows: “Free Market Analysis With No Obligation.” REALTOR® A also distributed certificates reading, “This will entitle the bearer of this certificate to one (1) FREE Market Analysis with no obligation to bearer.” The certificate included the name of REALTOR® A and his firm.
A property owner complained about “being the victim of a come-on scheme” to solicit the listing of his property which the Grievance Committee referred for a hearing before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Standards Committee.


The Hearing

At the hearing the property owner testified he had called REALTOR® A to have him prepare a market analysis of his residential property, “. . . with no obligation. . .” as claimed in REALTOR® A’s ads. However, the property owner said that when REALTOR® A came to his home, he explained that he would be glad to provide the market analysis but said, “I presume you understand that when we provide this service, we also expect that if you list your property, you will permit us to serve you.” The property owner testified that REALTOR® A did not press the matter at the time and did provide a market analysis. The property owner told the panel that for the next three weeks REALTOR® A or one of his representatives called “practically every single day” soliciting the listing of his home. The property owner testified that on several occasions, someone from REALTOR® A’s office reminded him that REALTOR® A had provided a “valuable free service and we feel that you owe us the listing of the property.”
REALTOR® A responded that he had provided the “free market analysis” as represented in his advertising, and had provided it “. . . with no obligation.” He stated that he had neither asked for nor received a fee for the market analysis. He could not understand why he was required to appear before a Hearing Panel in connection with allegations of a violation of Article 12 of the Code of Ethics.
The Hearing Panel noted that offering premiums or prizes as inducements, or the advertising of anything described as “free” is not prohibited by the Code of Ethics nor can such advertising be prohibited by a Board of REALTORS® unless it presents other than a “true picture” as required by Article 12.


The Conclusion

The Hearing Panel concluded that although REALTOR® A was free to advertise “free market analysis with no obligation,” such a representation was not a “true picture” if all of the terms governing availability are not clearly disclosed in the ad or representation. The Hearing Panel noted that the statement by REALTOR® A when he provided the “free market analysis” that it was “presumed” the property owner would list with REALTOR® A if the property was offered for sale, and the subsequent “reminders” by sales representatives of REALTOR® A about the “expectation” made the representation less than a “true picture.” The panel concluded that REALTOR® A was in violation of Article 12.