Real estate agents make all sorts of claims about their listings and about their services.
Some of those claims - like saying that your waterfront listing has the finest beach or the most beautiful view on the lake - are classified as puffery and are largely ignored by the general public. (That's one reason why adding those statements to your property descriptions is a waste of time and space.)
Everyone knows they're a matter of opinion and not a statement of fact. No one is going to simply take your word for it and come back to sue you later if they see a beach or a view they like better.
You must not, however, stray from the narrowly defined area of puffery into misrepresentation, because that CAN cost you a great deal of time, trouble, and money, even if potential buyers can see that it’s not true. (Don't say it has the most beautiful water view if it has no water view.)
Claims about you and your service are a different matter.
When it comes to describing yourself, you have to be more careful.
Saying you’re the “best” could be meant as puffery, but a client, a court, or a REALTOR’S® association might see it as an implication beyond your intentions.
If you’re an agent it might mean you’re claiming to be an absolute expert in all things real estate, so clients can safely rely on any statements you make or advice you give. They might take it to mean you’re an expert negotiator, or that you absolutely KNOW the price at which a home will sell. It would be impossible to guess what “best” might mean to someone.
If you’re a home inspector or an appraiser, saying you’re the best might be taken as a claim that you can’t make a mistake.
For some of us, like me, announcing that you’re the best is also a put-off.
I’ve been working on putting together a new project – a set of audios with agents and others in the real estate industry who are authorities – perhaps even experts - in various niches. A few days ago I came across someone who is a real estate teacher, so went to his website to check him out. The first thing I saw: “I am the best real estate instructor.” His website went on to say that his was the best real estate school in the U.S.
Did I contact him to ask if he’d be interested in participating in my project? No. Not a chance. I don’t even want to talk to someone that arrogant, let alone interview him for an audio. As for hiring someone like that - no.
Saying you’re an expert is also risky. What if someone takes your advice and is harmed by it?
We’ve all heard of agents claiming to be neighborhood or hometown experts when they’re not. Those agents are playing with fire.
If a potential buyer asks them a question about school district boundaries, taxation, cost of utilities, etc. and they can’t answer, it shows they aren’t the experts they said they were. That simply brands them as a fraud.
The real danger comes if they give an answer – but the answer is incorrect and their clients proceed thinking it’s the truth. If they rely on the information and are harmed by it, a certain percentage of them will sue.
Remember that the Realtor® Code of Ethics states: “REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations.”
“Specialist” is another danger word. An agent might be tempted to say that they specialize in a specific niche, even if they’ve just begun to focus on marketing to that niche. It sounds reasonable enough.
But… the word specialist means a bit more. Here’s the definition, as per Merriam-Webster: “A person who has special knowledge and skill relating to a particular job, area of study, etc.”
In other words, the only safe way to use that word is to wait until you have specialized knowledge to impart. If you really do have that knowledge and skill, then go ahead. If you’re not there yet, choose a different word.
So what words could you use?”
I’m not an attorney, nor do I work for a Real Estate Association anywhere, so I could be wrong, but my guess is that it would be safe to say you’re accomplished or experienced (if its true), or that you are the friendliest agent in town - or have the best smile.
Beyond something like that, it’s best to stick with facts that can be verified. If you say you’re in the top 1% of all agents in your MLS; if you say you sold more homes than any of your competitors; if you quote high list to sell ratios; or If you say you have six certifications, you’d better be able to prove it.
About my new project...
If you're focused on a niche and have advice you'd be willing to share with other agents, maybe you'd be interested in participating. If so, email me and I'll share my plans.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net