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No Advice Is Better Than Bad Advice

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Providence Group Realty TREC# 0608931

Social media can be a tempting resource for licensees who seek immediate gratification for questions or problem-solving. Reliance upon Facebook groups is growing. Not so long ago, posting anything online even remotely related to a transaction was taboo, and with good reason. Public discussion of any details (past or present) was considered a violation of fiduciary duties -- even when names and addresses were never mentioned, as an agent's identity alone could provide context clues sufficient to inappropriately link back to transaction information.

Social media has opened up a can of worms in that respect. Closed online groups allow for industry pillow talk behind the veiled curtains of protective settings. The daily stream of "questions and answers" posted online is justified and categorized under a label of "collective learning" for the audience in each forum.

One of the most dangerous trends in online information exchange is the trust that licensees put into these groups, and the often inadvertently bad and wrong answers received from group members. Armchair quarterbacks tend to be quick to give answers without fully reading questions, and without prerequisite knowledge to answer.

Why Don't Agents Go To Their Brokers / Brokerage for Answers?

There are several common reasons why licensees turn to Facebook instead of seeking guidance from their brokers/brokerages. These generally include accessibility, the immediacy of response, avoidance of scrutiny or anticipated criticism, as well as emotional needs (trust for the online community, their desire for attention and interaction, or a wish to glean multiple perspectives).

Unexpected Consequences

Agents naively underestimate the harm that can come from subscribing to the information in online groups. Believing and acting upon inappropriate answers caused by lack of context, lack of expertise, and lack of state-specific knowledge (among other things) can lead to issues of malpractice and liability for agents and their sponsoring brokers.

Agents Posting Questions - What did your broker have to say about your question? Did you try your broker first? Does your broker know you are seeking "help" from social media groups instead of coming to them? Does your broker have a policy in place prohibiting that? Did you discuss the answers you received with your broker before acting on the "advice"? If you cannot reach your broker (absentee) or get help from your brokerage, why are you still with that firm? 

Agents Answering Questions - What qualifies you to answer the posted question? Are you sure your answer is true, accurate, correct, compliant, and relevant to the question that was asked? Are you giving legal advice (always a no-no)? Are you inappropriately advising another broker's sponsored agent instead of referring that agent back to his or her broker?

Moderators / Group Owners - Is the scope of the group set to limit inappropriate levels of participation, as well as to uphold standards of practice and the code of ethics? Do you monitor for and correct (or remove) misinformation? Do you close discussions and point agents back to their brokers when questions necessitate redirection?

Brokers - Do you have an updated policy and procedure manual that addresses your agents' social media participation, particularly with transaction-related questions? Are you aware that your agents are participating in such forums? Do you know how their questions reflect on you and your firm? Are you fully cognizant of the liability you could incur from agents who seek education and answers outside of your direction? Do you care?

Friends and Colleagues, guard your practice and guard your minds. Seek out answers first from your broker/brokerage. That is their role, their responsibility, and their purpose. Texas REALTORS® may also reach out to the Texas Association’s Legal Hotline at 512-480-8200 for trustworthy information about real estate transactions. Other states may have similar resources.

Try to think about this in the context of parenting... parents want their children to come to them first for answers to their questions. Likewise, nobody has the best interests of clients and sponsored agents at heart more than the broker of record. The absence of advice can be far better than wrong advice... So even if it means having the patience to pursue the path your broker has set up to facilitate questions, the best advice is to follow that path ahead of all others.

Comments (41)

Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning Amanda. What a great title and specifics too. Old truths are the best.

Nov 13, 2018 06:18 AM
Joseph Domino 480-390-6011
HomeSmart - Scottsdale, AZ
Real Estate Made Easy

Good post. We see it so often when agents post information that should never be made public. It’s as if they don’t realize that what they share is seen by the entire world. So often it is incorrect or at least unclear.

Nov 13, 2018 06:54 AM
Brian DeYoung
also affiliated with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Heritage Realty - Ithaca, NY
The Realtor with personal investment background

I often get my best advice right here. I find that local resources are sometimes tight-fisted with advice because they don't always want to give advice to someone they feel as a competitor. Here on active rain we're trying to make connections and someone in another state is usually not my competitor so I can often yet good advice. Also I like to see how things are done differently in other states. And as Abe Lincoln said you must be very careful at the advice you get on social media. So taking Abe's advice I never get information on the best procedures from Facebook

Nov 13, 2018 08:38 AM
M.C. Dwyer
Melody Russell Team at eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Felton, CA
MC Dwyer-Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Wow, I didn't even know this was happening, Amanda Thomas - Congratulations on a very well deserved featured post.    I suspect the culprit is these agents are for whatever reason reluctant to ask or intimidated by their broker, which indicates a real issue right there.    My broker owns 6-8 offices (I can't keep up!) - and is STILL VERY AVAILABLE - like within an hour or two max.    And we pay our California Association of REALTORs which offers a legal hotline that may take longer but is of great value.   

Kudos to Bruce Walter for this gem (comment 5): "Opinions are like armpits- everyone has a couple and some STINK!!!!"

Nov 13, 2018 08:41 AM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hello Amanda --- Unintended Consequences.  Indeed! A smart, well-written post.

Nov 13, 2018 09:32 AM
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Thanks for sharing this Amanda Thomas. Well written and wise advise for sure.


Nov 13, 2018 10:59 AM
L. Scott Ferguson
Ask4Ferguson - Your House-SOLD Name in Real Estate - West Palm Beach, FL
Sunny Florida Real Estate Professional

Amanda!  Catchy title and great info and content!





Nov 13, 2018 11:23 AM
Mike Frazier
Carousel Realty of Dyer County - Dyersburg, TN
Northwest Tennessee Realtor

Amanda, facebook is a 2 edged sword that can help you or hurt you. I had a listing client that would not shut up on facebook and she had potential buyers running the other way and other real estate agents in my town refusing to show her house. I like to use facebook but do not spill the beans.

Nov 13, 2018 11:29 AM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

The "chain of command" is no myth but instead an established starting point....

Nov 13, 2018 05:17 PM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

I'd never think of posting to a FB group for advice on a business matter...first I'll discuss with collegues or broker--someone I can trust, who's opinions I value.

Nov 13, 2018 07:46 PM
Mary Ann Avery
F. C. Tucker Company, Inc - Indianapolis, IN
A History of Personal Service

One of the reasons I picked my brokerage and branch office is because I have two managing brokers that are always available to answer my questions.  I have called them on holidays and weekends and they are there for me. We also have a mortgage and title company and I often contact them for advice as well.  Would NEVER throw out a question on social media. Great post Amanda! 

Nov 14, 2018 07:57 AM
Jan Green - Scottsdale, AZ
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Very smart post!  Anytime I speak with agents, I'm not a broker, but I'm an instructor - I always tell them to go back and speak to their broker.  Chances are their broker knows less about energy efficiency, but I'm not liable to that information - their broker is. 

Recently I was in such a forum sharing a Washington Post article specifically on practicing outside your area of expertise by selling homes with solar panels.  The article linked directly to Article 11 of the Code of Ethics. 

The rant grew so much that I had to write an entire diatribe as to why this is an accurate article.  Several times I quoted "speak to your broker."  Some smart agents signed up for my class as I'm only there to share knowledge, I don't earn an income from teaching but have been teaching on this topic for 6 years! 

Checking out  one "ranter" he is not a licensed agent, nor a licensed appraiser, but is an expert on selling homes with solar!  Argh I digress!   Great post and very useful information.!

Nov 14, 2018 05:50 PM
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

We don't police our team members social media participation, but we like to think that they wouldn't involve themselves in the usual incendiary items people tend to get wrapped up in.  

Nov 15, 2018 10:45 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Great post, Amanda. We advise clients to be cautious about the advice they get online, we should be as well - both giving and getting.

Some tend to play attorney or financial advisor when they should not, or offer advice for agents in other states.


Nov 16, 2018 03:03 PM
Eva B. Liland Century 21 Doug Anderson
Century 21 Doug Anderson - Lancaster, CA
Glad to be of Service 661-714-1643

A very well thought out post Amanda Thomas . Not sure about if my broker has a written out policy about social media, time to find out is now!

Nov 17, 2018 09:25 AM
James (Jim) Lawson, DBA
DomainRealty.com LLC - Bonita Springs, FL
Broker Associate, RSPS, BPOR, HI & PE

Lots of wisdom in your post Amanda. Loose lips sink ships. Now if we only could get over-talkative colleagues to heed your advice we all would be better off!          


Nov 18, 2018 09:13 PM
Theodora Choros

Hi Amanda Excellent advise and I wholeheartedly agree. Agents one of the reasons you pay your broker is for that advise. Remember that you are both on the same team. Also, you may unintentionally be putting both of you at risk.

Nov 29, 2018 06:22 PM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Amanda, excellent post and I would have missed this post if it was not for our friend Gabe Sanders  reblogging your post and I am a believer "no advice is better than bad advice":) Endre

Nov 30, 2018 11:16 PM
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Happily Retired - Franklin, MA
Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team

Good morning, Amanda Thomas congrats on your well deserved featured post.... great points made...

Dec 01, 2018 06:28 AM
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

True ...too true...be careful where you get advice...it may not be the highest and best source !

Dec 02, 2018 07:15 AM