Advertising Basics & Social Media Pitfalls – How to Avoid Running Afoul of Massachusetts Law and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics

April 28, 2023

- By The MAR Legal Team

Welcome Spring – and hopefully a few more listings! Low inventory has been a challenging obstacle in today’s market and, in some cases, has led to questionable advertising practices as more agents compete for fewer listings.

As we embark on a new season of many sales, please keep the following basic advertising rules and regulations in mind:

LICENSE LAW: 254 CMR 3.00 

First and foremost, advertisements must comply with all Fair Housing laws and must not discriminate. Additionally, any salespersons who wish to advertise must only do so with the permission of their broker or brokerage and any advertisement must conspicuously identify the full name of the brokerage. This means that a salesperson is not permitted to advertise in their own name. Massachusetts does not treat the advertising by teams any differently, which means that any real estate team must comply with all advertising regulations, including the identification of the brokerage. (TEAMS FAQ)

When it comes to social media, licensees need to make sure that the brokerage’s full name appears on any posting that could be considered an advertisement. All advertisements must also disclose the agent’s identity as a real estate licensee and may never be false or misleading. Unlike the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, there is no one click rule in Massachusetts meaning that the posting itself must comply with advertising regulations, it cannot just point to a secondary site that provides the required information.


In addition to the state laws and regulations explained above, REALTORS® must also comply with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, which in many ways compliments existing law. Article 12 of the Code of Ethics requires that REALTORS® be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and present a true picture in their advertising. Like Massachusetts regulations, Article 12 also requires that REALTORS® disclose their status as real estate professionals in a readily apparent manner so that recipients of the real estate communications know that those communications are from a real estate professional. The name of the REALTORS® firm must appear in a reasonable and readily apparent way. 

Article 10 of the Code of Ethics incorporates Fair Housing into the Code by prohibiting REALTORS® from denying equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Article 10 also highlights that REALTORS® must not use harassing speech, hate speech, epithets, or slurs based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity.


When it comes to exempting or delaying listings or utilizing the “coming soon” feature, REALTORS® need to look to the MLS and its rules. Generally speaking, an exempted listing is when a seller refuses, on the seller’s initiative, to permit their property to be listed on the MLS. To do so the seller must execute a non-MLS listing form and have that form delivered prior to the deadline for filing by the listing broker. If this process is followed, then the listing may become a so-called “office exclusive.”

For delayed listings, the seller and listing broker agree to delay the MLS listing to a future date. Here, the listing broker must file the required form by the deadline for filing. During the period prior to filing, the listing broker may not take the property as an “office exclusive.”

Finally, if a seller wants their property listed on the MLS but chooses to defer the showings until a later date, the property can qualify as a Coming Soon listing. The seller must execute and deliver the required form by the deadline for filing. Showings of a “coming soon” listing shall be deferred to a fixed date that is specified and shall not exceed 21 days from the date of filing. It is important to note that the property will be deemed to be “off market” during the “coming soon” period and there shall be no showings of the property by the listing broker or by any cooperating broker, but the listing broker may advertise the property.

As always, if you have any questions or need more information on this or any topic concerning real estate, please do not hesitate to call the MAR Legal Hotline, now open to all members of MAR.