Is Social Media Killing Confidentiality?

Real Estate Agent with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services


One of a real estate agent's main fiduciary duties to a client is confidentiality. I don't think anyone could dispute how important this is. So why then do so many people breach it on Facebook and other social media?

I have seen a ton of agents do it every day on Facebook, posting things like:

"My listing on __________ just got a showing for the first time in over month."

"Just sold my new listing in 10 days! Now sellers need to buy quick...does anyone have something coming up in the _________area?"

"My first-time buyers are negotiating on yet another home, hope the third time is a charm."


Before I discuss what is wrong here ( Note: I am NOT an attorney and nothing here should be construed as legal advice or interpretation of the law ), let me share this from the Ohio Revised Code 4735.51 regarding the definition of confidential information:

"All information that a client directs to be kept confidential or that if disclosed would have an adverse effect on the client's position in the real estate transaction, except to the extent the agent is required by law to disclose such information, and all information that is required by law to be kept confidential."

All of the examples above may seem fairly harmless, but could very well be deemed a breach of client confidentiality. Sure, this information may be irrelevant to many people on Facebook, but what if a local agent who you are "friends" with happens to see your posts. Could any of this information hurt your clients' position if in the wrong hands? I know if I were buying or selling a home, I wouldn't want my agent sharing anything about my situation on Facebook.

I'm not saying that agents are committing major crimes on Facebook and Twitter, I am merely suggesting that people think long and hard about their fiduciary duties before posting things. Just use common sense. I realize that everyone wants to tell the world how busy they are with buyers and sellers, but just be careful what you are sharing.

Confidentiality is owed to our buyers and sellers, so let's not let our exuberance over social media overshadow our sacred duty to our valued clients.


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About The Authors:

Dan and Amy Schuman service the Cleveland, Oh metropolitan area and specialize in Cleveland luxury homes and working with buyers relocating to Cleveland.



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Is Social Medial Killing Confidentiality is the property of The Schuman Team and may not be duplicated or used without their written consent. ©March, 2011


Disclaimer: The Schuman Team practices real estate in Ohio. Since many states have different laws and protocol regarding a real estate transaction, we recommend consulting a qualified local legal professional prior to entering into any written agreement. This blog contains observations and opinions related to our first hand experience working with buyers and sellers in Ohio, but should not be construed as legal advice.  Accuracy is not guaranteed.  


Comments (139)

Michele Norris
Crystal Realty - Incline Village Nevada - Incline Village, NV
((( Buy or Sell, Call Michele ))) Lake Tahoe NV

Dan and Amy,

Excellent discussion!

Mar 28, 2011 06:11 AM
Rhonda Hollifield, REALTOR®
Keller Williams Realty Mountain Partners - Hendersonville, NC

Well said!

Mar 28, 2011 07:17 AM
Matt Brady
Finance Of America - Del Mar, CA
One of San Diego's Best Lenders

Great points, lenders have been legislated out of saying anything to anyone. I can see this opening someone up to liability if you can show it harmed a client on either side of the transaction.

Mar 28, 2011 07:38 AM
Paula Burt

Dan & Amy, great post and thanks for making this point and blogging about it!  Quite the conversation it stirred up!  It absolutely amazes me how many agents don't even realize that fb & twitter should not be a forum for their commnents.  There are a few in particular around here who say things that make me wonder what on earth were they thinking when they posted THAT?  Do they really want the opposing side to know that?  Sheeeshh!!!

Mar 28, 2011 09:32 AM
Vickie Slade
Colorado Landmark, Realtors - Boulder, CO
Service You Can Trust ~ Someone You Can Depend On

Dan, what a great post.  It was great to connect with you on linkedin and then on facebook and now in the rain. 

Mar 28, 2011 02:12 PM
Liane Thomas, Top Listing Agent
Professional Realty Services® - Corona, CA
Bringing you Home!

Oh I have not seen this! What an interesting twist. I'm sure our sellers do not want their business out there for everyone to see.

Mar 28, 2011 05:00 PM
Michael Myers
King-Rhodes & Associates - Cherokee Village, AR

I completely agree. I see people in all types of business say things on facebook that make my jaw drop. What are they smoking?

Mar 29, 2011 02:21 AM
Melanie Ross
Coldwell Banker Solano Pacific - Benicia, CA
Benicia CA & Vallejo CA Real Estate, 707-319-2828

I think I am very conservative and will ponder for hours if I said the wrong thing,  some days I want to hide in a hole.  Yet I believe transparency is important and life stories are important.  Ahhh back to the days where I did not even have a cell phone.  my goodness what did I do? Oh yea, I had time to live!

Mar 29, 2011 07:20 AM
Debra Gould
Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc. - Toronto, ON
The Staging Diva

Great post and excellent reminders. The degree of oversharing going on in social media is really stunning... not just on the part of agents, but everyone! All this stuff is searchable on Google and will stay there forever. Don't make a comment you don't want to be associated with and don't reveal information that is damaging to your clients or your own reputation.

Mar 29, 2011 01:35 PM
Eugene Adan
Adan Properties, Carlsbad, CA (760) 720-9710 - Carlsbad, CA
Carlsbad Real Estate

Dan and Amy,

It's better to leave any information pertinent to a deal out of the social media arena.  If you have to think about whether to exercise any discretion you LIKELY should.

Mar 29, 2011 06:21 PM
Dan and Amy Schuman
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Solon, OH
Luxury Home Specialists

I'm still on vacation but had some down time and wanted to respond to as many people as I could, so here it goes:

Warren -I like keeping things business as well.

Laura - My sentiments exactly. We should just assume our clients will be reading our posts and comments and act accordingly.

Tom - I agree. I have friended a lot of agents and do hide the ones who only post "ads" or useless information. This is a turn off to me personally.

Tammy - Being general in your posts helps, no need to give any personal details.

Sylvia - Sounds like you have nothing to worry about.

A. Daniel -Fantastic list! We should all print this out and read it before making a post or comment.

Steven - You're right, it happens everywhere, especially in the office.

Mona - True, most of these agents won't be reading this. Some of these folks will just learn the hard way.

Patricia - Your very welcome.

Laurel - I suppose whether it's the law or not, keeping certain things private just makes good business practice.

Larry - Some a little too much.

Bill - I think it's a great idea to have more education about social media to all agents. It would probably be a good thing to add to new agent training as well so they learn the right way to do things before they start practicing.

Deborah - These people remind me of some kids I grew up with, always having to brag about something to make themselves look good. This is a turn off to me personally but some people do feel the need to do it. Sometimes I feel these people lack self-esteem or confidence and are looking for some type of approval from their peers.

Ellie - You simply rock! You and I think very similarly and I hope I get the chance to meet you in person one day. Hope all is well.

Valerie - You seem to have the right idea when it comes to properly using social media. Nice to hear you are a dog fan, so are we.

John and Kasey - As long as people ask for permission to post certain things, then I suppose I don't have a problem with it. I could see how posting this type of thing could be good for the buyers and agent provided the transaction is completed. Not my personal style, though.

David -Simple but good advice.

Steven - Thank you for your kind remarks. As long as clients are aware and approve, it's fair game and could be used effectively.

Geoff - Or in person, either.

Gail - I also see consumers post about their personal situation and I don't think they realize the damage they are doing to their cause.

Tim - That's a good way of looking at things.

Farooq -Sounds you like do a good job of training. I think that with the popularity of social media, even veterans are letting their guard down when it comes to protecting their clients.

Elizabeth - Thanks for commenting, how'd the discussion go?

Evelyn -  It's a matter of time before someone does get sued because of what they publish on SM.

Harrison -  I agree with Philip as well. I do believe the problem will get worse before it gets better though.

John -  Thanks for reading and commenting.

Reuben - Sounds like a great article, I will check it out.

Angela - I agree and prefer when people give value.

Lenn - Social media is a fantastic way to get your message out and some folks certainly do a better job than others.

Dimitri - I like the 80/20 rule and certainly nothing wrong with promoting your business as long as it's a tasteful and helpful post.

Betty -  It's this reason that employers are checking out future employees on line. 

Rene - I agree but I do see some of my friends post useless info and get a ton of comments. It's funny how sometimes the most mindless posts get people to respond while helpful and informative posts get little feedback.

Karen - It goes back to the old saying "if you don't have something nice to say...".

Mary - I think it's a good idea to talk to clients about their use as well so they don't reveal anything about their transaction that may end up hurting their cause.

Robert - Your very welcome. I wrote it so at least people would just think twice before posting something.

Graham -  I do appreciate the freedom we as agents have to communicate our message because some professionals are quite limited on what they can say in written communication. That being said, we need to remember that it's not a free for all either.

Nancy - Hopefully someone that read this will now think twice before making a careless statement.

Dave - Looking forward to reading it.

Virginia -  Wow, thank you so much for the compliment, that means a lot.

Mar 30, 2011 02:05 PM
Robert L. Brown - Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids Real Estate Bellabay Realty, West Mic

I have not read EVERY comment here but what if the agent(s) got permission (in writing of course) to post this information. Does it change the opinions here? Getting things in writing will definitely cover you.

Apr 02, 2011 07:36 AM
Krista Abshure
Fathom Realty - Fuquay Varina, NC

I wondered when this would become a public subject.  I often have seen posts on FB and think to myself "Wow, that agent shouldn't be sharing that!"  While I agree the NAR might consider coming out with guidelines, if you really think about it they already have!  Client confidentiality is expected and you are not to harm your client!!! If we think of this in all of our actions we should remain out of Real Estate Jail!!

Apr 02, 2011 08:25 AM
Andrew Doroszko
Red Carpet Elite Realty Inc.,Brokerage - Mississauga, ON

Dan, when you have a listing agreement or buyer representation signed by your client which include a consent for full advertising you can list their property on MLS and in every other public publication including internet and specifically Facebook or Craiglist and even Twitter, or search in every possible way for buyer's needs,  these web sites are so popular that everybody doing any business is there. The question is: what is we can write about?, in my opinion always ask your clients if you can advertise on the internet even if you have their consent signed, many times they do not understand what this consent means. I guess that everybody from our industry knows that protecting your client interest is first, but do not ever forget about how this can bite you. Always protect your business, have everything in writing and signed, because you do not have only friends.

Keep smiling,


Apr 03, 2011 05:32 AM
Tatyana Makarov
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - South Windsor, CT
Your Greater Hartford Area Realtor

I think it's all "boils down" to who you are.... I would NEVER share such info on my Facebook page. In my opinion, everything about your clients should be confidential. But some agent get it, and some just don't (unfortunately for their clients).

thanks you for your post.


Apr 04, 2011 03:03 AM
Dan and Amy Schuman
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Solon, OH
Luxury Home Specialists

Jamie - You're right, common sense is all we need but many still lack it.

John - We give our buyers and sellers the same speech, but some still continue to post things about their personal housing situation on FB.

Brea Real Estate - I agree.

Gene - Facebook is actually a great tool is used properly. With so many people on it every day, many agents are seeing success there.

Kate - Simple but well said.

Rob - I am a big believer of not posting about pending deals. I simply see no benefit, but that's just my opinion.

Michael - I agree with you. Anyone involved in a real estate transaction should keep things confidential. It is in everyone's best interest.

Suzi - The whole transparency issues has come up quite a bit. Being transparent doesn't mean divulging confidential information.

Ron and Alexandra - Thank you for the comment and kind remarks. I'm hoping people read it and take it seriously.

Gwen - Taking just a few seconds to think about whether a post should be made or not could make all the difference in the world.

Steve - If people continue to make mistakes, I could see brokerages coming out with rules regarding social media at some point.

Brad -  You're right, we still need to be careful what we say in person as well, especially to other agents.

Lyn - I could argue each one of these statements, but the big picture point of the post was for agents to think twice before posting statements that may hurt their clients, or even themselves. Statements can be interpreted many ways, but at the end of the day, I don't see any benefit to posting such things.

David - Great quote.

Cynthia - I suppose the users are the ones to blame. Facebook is great and I can't fault the format as the agents are the ones causing the problem. I see the problem getting much worse before it gets better.

Jeremy - Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

Linda - I think this is a great point that people forget. Regardless of what you post, you should consider your brand and what you stand for before communicating.

Don - I see your point of view. In my market, having good relationships with other agents is important and has often saved or created deals. So we are "friends" with a lot of our peers. That being said, we never post or publish something that we think could be used against us by another local agent. We are extremely conservative on what we put out to the public understanding that our competitors are always watching.

Catherine - I think that's a great questions to ask yourself prior to posting anything.

Gab - Nice to see you here and we always appreciate your comments. It's amazing what other agents put out there isn't it?

Blake -  Some folks just operate without a filter on line, which is probably how they are in person as well.

Castelazo - Thank you for commenting.

Michele - Thank you so much.

Rhonda - Glad you enjoyed it.

Matt - I certainly wouldn't want something I wrote on line coming back to hurt one of my clients, so we err on the side of caution.

Paula - It happens with good agents every day and I think they just don't realize they are doing anything wrong.

Vicki - Hi Vicki, looks like it's the start of a great virtually friendship.

Liane - Could you imagine if a seller saw a post describing their personal situation? I sure wouldn't want to be the agent that has to deal with that.

Michael - It happens every day and some education is needed for everyone.

Melanie - I'm not saying we should reveal things in our posts, just make sure we aren't hurting our clients by doing so.

Debra - I'm even careful what I say in a comment here in AR.

Adan - Well said.

Robert - While I'm not an attorney, I would say you have the right to post something if instructed by a client to do so.

Krista - There certainly are codes written regarding confidentiality, but I think some updated coures on dealing with social media are in order and would make a huge difference.

Andrew -  Great point. Just because a client signs a disclosure doesn't make it a free for all. We should properly communicate our on line strategy with them so they know exactly what we will be doing. You can never go wrong being overly cautious.

Tatyana - I think people's posts and way they present themselves in all aspects, on line and in person, says alot about a person. Thank you so much for your comments.



Apr 04, 2011 10:15 AM
Barbara "Barb" Bodnar, Licensed Associate RE Broker
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Yorktown, NY
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Great post.  Before social media agents should have been concerned about protecting the interests of their clients. Social media just expands the audience that was always present.  We shoudl always take care in regard to the interest of our clients.

Apr 06, 2011 02:21 PM
Dan and Amy Schuman
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Solon, OH
Luxury Home Specialists

Barbara - Thank you for reading and your comments are right on the money.

Apr 07, 2011 06:34 AM
Benjamin Clark
Homebuyer Representation, Inc. - Salt Lake City, UT
Buyer's Agent - Certified Negotiation Expert

I have to say I've seen even worse breaches right here on ActiveRain. Much more lengthy and in detail than your 1-liner facebook examples.

And many think that posting "Members Only" makes it OK. Members Only still breaches confidentialilty. All should remain between the agent and the client.

Apr 08, 2011 07:21 AM
Dan and Amy Schuman
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services - Solon, OH
Luxury Home Specialists

Benjamin - You are certainly correct. I would always use caution even in members only posts. Certain things simply should not be shared anywhere on line. Thanks for commenting.

Apr 08, 2011 07:52 AM