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March 1, 2017

No Room for “Fake News” in Real Estate

Mark Hite, President

Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS®

The term “fake news” is now used almost daily in our society after coming of age during the 2016 Presidential campaign. There are several safe guards in place to ensure “fake news” doesn’t come into play when working with a licensed real estate professional.

Starting with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, there are numerous points directed at accuracy of information. REALTORS® are cautioned to “not deliberately mislead the owner as to market value” and “shall avoid exaggeration, misrepresentation, or concealment of pertinent facts relating to the property”.

Article 12 of the Code has various points regarding advertising and marketing of properties. REALTORS® are advised to present a “true picture” and to “ensure that their status as real estate professionals is readily apparent in their advertising, marketing and other representations.”

In order to practice real estate sales or leasing as a vocation, one must hold a license in the state where they wish to practice. In the Greater Chattanooga region, the states of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama govern these licensees. While there are variances by state, there are rules which apply to signage, display of brokerage information, telephone numbers to contact both the supervising broker as well as the agent, and these requirements apply for all forms of advertising.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS® operates a multiple listing service (MLS) for both its residential and commercial agents to use in sharing of information of properties for sale or lease. Consumers may search these listings at www.GCAR.net. These MLS’s have extensive rules that apply to the types and depth of data displayed as well as how and where this data can be shared. A committee of real estate brokers and agents are elected annually to supervise the activities and operations of both MLS’s and the related data feeds.

Even the most casual observer can see the time and effort that goes into ensuring accurate information is presented by REALTORS®. The largest real estate arena where this high level of control is outside the hands of this group is the online public portals. Various “for profit” sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Homes.com are not under the jurisdiction of the National Association of REALTORS® nor are they governed by states for licensure. Thus, the accuracy of information displayed may not be of the same high quality as that shared by REALTORS®. While I am not suggesting that these sites would create or contribute to “fake news”, I would always encourage vetting information with a REALTOR® before making any major real estate related decision.

Anyone found violating these standards should immediately be reported to the Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS® for investigation and discipline, as necessary. If the error is found to be under the jurisdiction of a state body, GCAR can direct you to the appropriate office. If the incorrect information is found on one of the public portals referenced above, it can be much more challenging to correct the wrong.

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