Real Estate Advertising Rules Affected by Division-Issued Drafts

Real Estate Advertising

The Ohio Division of Real Estate has issued proposed changes to 35 rules, the adoption of 5 new rules, and the rescission of one rule. Some of the rules are directed at implementation of H.B. 532, which became law in April of this year. The rest are part of a 5-year rule review process each agency must undertake under state law.

Once adopted through a procedural process, which involves a public hearing, the rules are enforced the same as law. The rules govern the process of how real estate license law applies to licensees. Therefore, these rules could have an important impact on a licensee’s practice. These rules include, how you obtain your license, fees you pay to renew your license, the process of reactivating or transferring your license, and how you advertise to the public. Depending on how these rules change real estate advertising, here are some other great lead sources. The rules discussed below are currently only proposals. But they should be scrutinized to avoid any unintended consequences to you and your real estate practice. Specifically, where these affect real estate advertising practices.

Advertising

One change creating buzz is a proposal requiring licensees to add their license number to all advertisements. The license number would need to be included in newspapers, magazines, signs, websites, email, and business cards. Basically, any advertising communication towards the public. Similar to the securities industry, adding a license number to advertising helps the public identify the licensee. However, the rule as drafted may not be reasonable for yard signs, building signs, and other signage that technically constitutes advertising. A reasonable solution would be to limit the requirement to print or online advertising and permitting the license number to be in a smaller font at the bottom of the ad.

Currently, licensees are permitted to use a commonly known nickname in their advertising. So for example “Robert” can use “Bob”, “Daniel” can use “Dan” and “Christine” can use Chris, and so on. The proposed rules eliminate the ability of a licensee to advertise with a nickname. Meaning, all licensees must advertise in only their legal name. Additionally, the proposal eliminates the ability of a licensee to use initials in substitution for their first name in advertisements. For example, “R. Grant Smith” would have to advertise as “Robert Smith” or “Robert Grant Smith”.

Team Advertising

Along with rules for individual licensee advertising, some rules affect team-advertising as well. A proposal requires at least one team member in a real estate team to include their license number in any advertising. The proposal retains that any unlicensed individuals identified in advertising by name also be identified as unlicensed. The Division does not yet regulate the team name itself. However, there is a proposal to prohibit a team’s use of the word “Realty”, “Real Estate” or “Associates” in a team name. Rather, the use of “Group” or “Team” name would be required.

As discussed above these are only at the proposal stage. Once formally submitted for adoption, the text of the rules will appear on the Register of Ohio under Filing Agency 1301-Ohio Department of Commerce. The Division of Real Estate will be required to hold a public hearing to receive testimony on each proposed rule change. If you are interested in providing comment on the proposed rules, you can contact the Division here. In the meantime, check out how you can utilize Facebook in your real estate advertising strategy.