Question Details

Jonathan Rai…, Real Estate Pro in Macon, GA

Should Trulia restrict the states agents can make remarks?

Asked by Jonathan Rainer, Macon, GA Wed Dec 29, 2010

We are a heavily licensed business because real estate is different state-to-state. My home state of Georgia has a different legal environment than Virginia.

Yet, I'm seeing many agents from out of state answering questions about my state and may be violating the state's license law in regard to their comments...particularly comments about title issues and the purchase and sale process.

Should Trulia make restrictions? The thought hit me that maybe Trulia should only allow agents to make comments in states in which they were licensed: they know the market, legal environment, and purchase & sale traditions.

It's obvious that many agents are answering questions nationwide in order to get the "VIP" badge and contribution points. In many cases, the answers add nothing to the comments that have already been made, and in a few cases, their advice has been out of line with our state's practices.

I'm not sold on this idea, so, your thoughts?

Help the community by answering this question:


You know my state now requires that we have to have "licensed in the state of Oregon" on our profiles and preferably under any comments we make. They want to make it clear to consumers that if I answer a question in the GA forum that I am not licensed there. I don't think many consumers realize just how different real estate is across the country. I know I spent a lot of time trying to educate my east coast relocation clients here about our non use of attorneys in the process.

I don't think Trulia should restrict agents. I think agents should restrict themselves.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
No. People asking the questions have come to a nationwide community. It is not Trulia's place to stop agents from giving bad advice and advice that doesn't pertain to a particular state legal system.

On the other hand, it IS the agents' responsibility to exercise some discretion when answering. It is their responsibility to know the limits of their knowledge and that Georgia and California may not quite operate the same way in their respective real estate worlds. But many just don't know their limitations.

What is also obvious in addition to what you point out is that many agents don't even read the answers that have already been written. They answer in a vaccuum and you are right, it adds nothing.

But, for all those agents who are the problem in these ways, there are some really intelligent, insightful, and well spoken agents here that make all the other clutter worth it. I would hate to see their perspectives restricted because they are truly helpful.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010

I second Debbie's last sentence 100%. In terms of the community and your example, you are saying the equivalent of NAR shouldn't publish statements like the recent "Home sales increase 5%" because they don't reflect the local consumers economy. That is nonsensical. I suppose under the same logic we shouldn't publish the national unemployment rate either.

A consumer needs to retain a local agent to get local expertise. Are you suggesting that a consumer in New York will include in their negotiations statements like, "I was reading Trulia and Jonathan from Georgia said prices are dropping and so we are offering 20% off your list price." Highly unlikely. And if they go that route, it will get a laugh and won't get them far. Trulia is a sounding board - and a community discussion across the nation. Part of the beauty of it is we can disagree and the reader can decide for themselves.

I look at the respondents to your question so far- Jack from Arlington Heights, IL; Debbie from Livingston, NJ; Vera from Sterling Heights, MI; Melina from Salem, OR; Mack from Seattle, WA; Robin from Garden City, NY; Lynn from Dallas, TX; Jenet from Greenwich Village, NY; Tim from Kitty Hawk, NC - seems pretty much a national crowd. With the restriction you are pondering with this question - you would have no answers.

If you have no answers to your question, you won't take much interest in Trulia, which goes back to Mack's point - end of story.

I appreciate your frustration and find myself in the same place many times. I mean, how many real ways is there to answer the question of whether the buyer of a short sale should pay their agent under the table? Or is there a difference between an experienced sales rep and a newer sales rep? Not many, but because they are easy questions and because people troll for points around here, you end up with 100 or more redundant answers.

But as I said, within all the clutter of Trulia are some really insightful minds, several of which have responded to your question. Their insight, from outside your state of Georgia, is the value on Trulia.

2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 30, 2010
No, Trulia should not limit the areas, in which, agents answer questions.

Many of the questions asked, here on Trulia, are generic and can be answered by any agent anywhere in the country (ie: What do you think about Open Houses? Do vacant properties show better than furnished? What is a co-op?).

Agents should not be answering questions that require localized answers... I find California as a whole, and New York City have their own unique ways of doing business. We need to be careful in situations like those. Dual agency is handled differently state to state. But as Mack mentioned, having out of state agents comment, give us all an insight into how things work state to state.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 30, 2010
Alan May, Real Estate Pro in Evanston, IL
Hi Jonathan,

Absolutely not. I think agents should be free to comment on any subject matter they want. While it's true that laws vary from state to state, and market conditions vary from block to block, let alone state to state, the real estate business itself really isn't any different here than it is there. That's why we have a national portion of our real estate exam, and then the state portion.

Now, that said, I think that all agents need to be mindful of what may be a local issue when they make comments. Personally, I'm pretty careful about where I comment. If somebody is asking a very market specific question somewhere I have no knowledge of and no access to the local MLS data, I don't bother saying a word. I comment on something that could be different where they are, I say so in my comment. I often say things like, "In Illinois... but things may not e that way where you are". Also, I won't hesitate to tell people they should get a local agent or attorney, or both. I often encourage people to meet face to face with a professional too, not hide behind their computer. Too many people try and do everything online these days. Somewhere, the rubber meets the road.

If all agents followed that sort of thought process, you probably wouldn't have even raised this question. But if you're like me, you probably shake your head at some of the nonsensical things that a lot of professionals say on here. I think it's sufficient to say though that there are a few dull pencils in every box. No governing body, much less Trulia, can fix that. Restricting which states in which agents could make comments certainly wouldn't further that goal.

Jack Jentzen
Prudential Starck Realtors
(224) 234-5276
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 30, 2010
Trulia shoudn't , and can't police all of the questions, or decide that only agents from a particular state can answer questions originating from that state,

To restrict agents from answering certain questions would really shut down the flow of information.

I think the consumer can separate out the agents who give useless, generic answers (ie: "Call an attorney" "Find a local agent') or absolutely incorrect answers..... from the agents offering solid and thoughtful advice.

Truthfully, even within my own state, real estate is practiced differently depending on where one is, so the ideal answer to a specific question about procedure, should really come from an agent in that specific area.

Bottom line is, we should all know our own limitations.........some do...some never will
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
I agree with Jenet. NY is a different animal, and agents are always giving adivce about things that really don't have a place here. I especially love it when CA agents talk about "escrow". To us, that means if a lender takes your property taxes and homeowner's insurance to pay for you. I wouldn't comment about escrow in CA, but that's me. If Trulia stopped people from giving incorrect information, there wouldn't be a Q&A section at all.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010

I don't think we should be restricted if the question is general in other words how can I market my house better , ways for a new agent to market themselves or generate leads, What are things I should do as a first time homebuyer/seller why would anyone want to restrict ways for us to help others in that respect. They are just general ideas i usually add consult your states law or attorney. I have also given referrals based on some of the people I have seen give great advice etc in other states my clients have moved to I have yet to see anyone be upset about that. People just have to be careful.

Have a Happy New Year,

1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
And, Robin, it means the same thing to us, which leads to confusion, italicization, and half-sincere / half-worried nods from homebuyers.

The answer to the question depends on what Trulia's objectives are. I'm guessing its to sell advertising, and to do that they need eyeballs, which makes me think that they're going to do things that make people spend more time here, rather than less.

A side benefit of out-of-area responses (I wonder how many people have elected not to respond to this question) is that it gives agents a chance to learn about practices in other states.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
Many of the questions are standard ... there are different ways to look at a point of view as a Realtor.

Even in state agents violate professional code of ethics.

OR many questions are left unanswered they have respect where another agent from different state can provide assistance to obtain answers.

Lynn911 Dallas Realtor & Consultant, Loan Officer, Credit Repair Advisor
The Michael Group - Dallas Business Journal Top Ranked Realtors
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
This is a great question, Jonathan. As NAR says "real estate is local" and that is the truth. Here in NYC, we sell co-ops and condos, and the occasional townhouse (I'm speaking of Manhattan and the brownstone neighborhoods of NYC). When somebody asks a question, there are people from all over the country who have no concept of our market (it really is a different animal). They either give answers that are so general that they are useless, or give a wrong answer because they don't really understand what is being asked or are applying what is relevant to their market to this one. I know why they do it - to accumulate points to get a higher ranking here. I don't know that Trulia can stop it, but I certainly agree they are not helping the consumers. And the truth is, if they were to try to apply a rule about only answering in some states, the truth is, there are some questions that are generic enough that they can be answered by almost anyone.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
What you are saying does make some sense and I do somewhat agree with your thoughts. Some questions are just so basic that anyone with knowledge of the Code of Ethics could answer the question, but other questions will vary from state to state. It seems that most answers include the words, see a lawyer, which takes some of the legal burden off the person answering. I am not sure there are any violations of license law going on and I would like to see an argument of that issue, but since Trulia allows any and everyone to post a reply there seems to be ample room for your comments about an issue that you have knowledge about, just post your reply. Limiting to just those in a particular state will limit the comments and may not guarantee better more correct answers being posted to a question.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
Hello Jonathan,
I think that you have posed a very good question and I've read all the remarks from other members about answering questions out of your region. I do agree that it does give we agents/ Brokers more information as to how things are handled in other states and that it is up to the reader to determine if the answer will work for them or investigate further.
My concern, of late, has been seeing certain members on the site receiving multiple 'thumbs up" for helpful answers when it's quite obvious they have someone from their office or a fellow member clicking on the thumb to gain points. I've even seen one member who receives multiple thumbs when responding to members who have answered his questions. How does one justify earning a thumbs up just for saying "thank you"? Doesn't seem right and defeats the purpose of trying to truly give a helpful answer. Maybe only the asker of the question should be able to click on the thumb. Just a thought.

Laura Feghali
Prudential Connecticut Realty
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 1, 2011
I have a problem with out of state agents answering (with some authority) questions that they have no business answering. Recently an agent from CA answered a question here in PA and the answer was way off base. He answered a legal question (first error) and he answered it incorrectly. The law is not the same in every state! His answer was incorrect and I pointed it out, but I don't think he had any business stepping over that line. I also see agents say "I am in Georgia and here we do it like this....." and in reality here in PA we do it differently. This is a very touchy subject and I think agents should only be answering questions in states they are licensed in.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 1, 2011
Carl, I don't think the problem arises when we are talking about professionals reading answers, as we know what is allowed, or legal, or the procedure, in our states. The problem is the general public who would read things and think that it applies to their state, as in Beachbroker's example. Should there be a disclaimer for the general public that although Trulia is here to provide answers to their questions, there is a large variation in rules and regulations, customs, laws, etc., from state to state so they should keep that in mind when reading answers?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 1, 2011
I agree with Melina -

I don't think Trulia should restrict agents. I think agents should restrict themselves.

I am always amazed at how many agents don't restrict themselves - but then again - there are "points". Agents just can't pass-em up :)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Jan 1, 2011
One last thought - you mention different legal environment in your question....agents shouldn't be providing legal advice in the first place - gets back to Debbie's point.

Maybe the question is "Should Trulia screen and restrict the questions to non-legal questions?" But that won't address the last paragraph of your question.

Have a good new year.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Dec 30, 2010
Good thoughts here. I appreciate it.

In Georgia, we have enough agents answering the questions, and answering well enough that the out of state responses are usually unnecessary.

Like Janet, I've seen answers to questions that require specific market knowledge, but are answered by someone 2,000 miles away. And usually, the out-of-state agents leave those questions alone...but there are a few who answer. Recently, I saw a person from a growing state make a remark that in just a few years a person will be able to recover any investment in a property they purchase. While it was probably true in her state, it will most likely not be true where the customer lived....and Georgia specifically restricts us as agents from making predictions about the market.

Bill, to respond to your statement that people are coming to a nationwide community: I'd disagree in more than half the cases. I see very specific questions that could only be answered by a local expert. And, I don't think the customer realizes that questions may come from all over...chances are they only look at the answer itself, not the person making the remark and what state they live in.

Let me throw one other common question out there: "Do I rent or do I buy in this market?" While it appears to be on the surface a general question, the fact is that every community is going to be different. The perspective of the person is "Do I rent...?" Not, is it "in general" a good idea to rent or buy? I'd say 95% or more of the questions asked by customers are questions about themselves and their personal situation...not general terms. And, when that happens, it starts getting iffy whether you can even offer "suggestions" vs. "advice".

While Trulia isn't in the business of policing advice, they do need to sponsor a reasonable community...and when that community is answering inappropriately, there need to be simple restrictions in place. They could be reasonable, asking the customer posting the question if they only want to hear local agent's responses or anyone nationwide.

Mack and Robin: Well said on the escrow issue. We also do not use escrow companies. I've seen a couple of answers confused by calling the "pending" period as escrow.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Dec 29, 2010
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