I bought a home several months ago, and yet the listing photos are still online in an advertisement placed by the seller’s brokerage. Can RECO help me get them taken down?
Yes – the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) can look into the matter if the real estate brokerage that was hired by the home’s previous owner is unwilling or unable to take down the advertisement. Your first step, however, should be to get in touch with the seller’s representative, and possibly their Broker of Record; that’s the person who oversees a brokerage and its compliance with the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 and its Code of Ethics.
Most real estate brokerages want to make things right when a problem emerges, and are committed to following the advertising rules that we enforce. Those rules help ensure that real estate advertisements are accurate, and consumers aren’t tempted with false or deceptive claims. They also exist to protect the privacy of buyers and sellers. Here are some basics.
When a home is listed for sale, the seller’s representative may market the property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) or other websites with the seller’s permission. Once an offer has been accepted, the seller’s brokerage can then advertise that the home is now off the market and use a “SOLD” designation in their marketing.
The brokerage is allowed to run such ads until the home’s ownership changes hands. Once that happens, the brokerage can’t make any reference to the property in advertising without the new owner’s written permission. That includes posting photos of the property on the brokerage website or anywhere else.
And if the seller’s brokerage wants to include pertinent details of the transaction, such as the selling price or the closing date, it needs written permission from both the buyer and seller, regardless of who owns the home when the advertisement is published.
It sounds as though the seller’s brokerage probably forgot to remove the ad after you assumed ownership of your home and I imagine a gentle reminder of their responsibility to respect your privacy will do the trick. If that doesn’t work, feel free to contact RECO.
A final word about listing photographs: salespeople will often advise their seller clients to declutter and depersonalize their homes before a photo shoot because mostly-empty homes are easier to market, but that’s also good advice from a personal safety point of view. If you decide to sell your home, make sure your valuables, keys and confidential information (bills, bank statements and other documents, family photos and computer passcodes, for instance) are safely hidden before the photographer takes any pictures, and personally review any photos your representative wishes to post online. You don’t want to inadvertently assist web-surfing burglars.
If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.