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Which REALTOR can claim to have ‘sold’ a property?

sold sign with blue sky

By Peg Ritenour, OAR Vice President of Legal Services/Administration

Several questions have been received on the Ohio Association of REALTORS’ Legal Assistance Hotline recently about a word that is very important to REALTORS — SOLD. Who can claim to have sold a property and for how long? Here are a few of these questions:

Q: I had a property listed that was sold by an agent with another brokerage. Following the closing she sent out a postcard to the neighborhood where the property was located claiming that she just “sold” the property. I’m worried that people are going to think she was the listing agent when she wasn’t. Isn’t that misleading or unethical?

A: Standard of Practice 12-7 of NAR’s Code of Ethics provides that a REALTOR who participated in the transaction as either the listing broker or cooperating broker may claim to have “sold” the property.

Therefore, the buyer’s agent who was involved in a transaction can claim to have “sold” your listing in promotional and advertising materials. As to the license law, there is nothing that specifically prohibits a buyer’s agent from using the term “sold.” The Division of Real Estate has indicated that a licensee can advertise that they sold a property as long as they were involved in representing one of the parties in the transaction. However, a buyer’s agent should always assure that the wording used in the ad does not falsely imply that they were the listing agent.

Q: My agent has a website on which she indicates properties that she has sold. The properties are identified by their address. On most of these transactions the agent represented the seller but on some she was the buyer’s agent. Some of these transactions are more than a year old. How long can you claim to have “sold” a property?

A: Unfortunately this is not specifically addressed in either the license law or Code of Ethics. Certainly an owner of property could have a problem with a licensee still advertising their property as being “sold” on a website long after their purchase. This would be especially true if the owner is now trying to sell the property and your agent is indicating that it is “sold” on their website.

At some point in time following a closing it may be misleading to continue to represent on a website or other forms of advertising that the property has been “sold.” What that time is, however, is not clear. It is recommended that brokerage establish a policy for their agents on how long they may continue to keep using sales in advertising. I would suggest no more than a year.

Q: I had a property listed that was sold by another agent. The day after the closing the buyer’s agent took my sign out of the yard and put up her sold sign. Can she do that?

A: Yes. Standard of Practice 12-7 of the NAR Code of Ethics provides that after the closing of the transaction the buyer’s agent can put a sold sign on the property and the permission of the listing broker is not necessary.

As to the license law, it provides that no licensee can put a sign on someone’s property without their consent. Obviously prior to closing the seller owns the property and has authorized the listing broker to place a for sale sign on the property. After the closing and title has transferred to the buyer, that buyer now has the right to control what sign is in their yard and can authorize their buyer’s broker to put a sold sign on the property.

Q: Does it matter that under the terms of the purchase contract the seller retains possession of the property for 30 days after closing? Can the buyer’s agent put up a sold sign even though the buyer doesn’t have the right to move in yet?

A: According to the Division, the person that owns a property — not who has the right to possession — gets to decide whose signage is on their property. Therefore because title has transferred to the buyer, if the buyer OKs his buyer broker putting a sold sign on the property he can do so even though the seller is still in the property.


Legal articles provided in the OAR Daily Buzz are intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney. 

Tags: legal