There seems to be an increase in complaint activity as it relates to real estate licensees making claims in their advertising that they are “number one.”

It is important for real estate licensees and the managing brokers charged with oversight of sponsored licensees to remember that the Illinois Real Estate License Act (the Act), the rules under the Act and the REALTOR® Code of Ethics all require advertising to be truthful and not misleading. Along with the sponsoring broker’s company name and any franchise affiliation, real estate licensees’ advertising must also contain enough information to communicate a truthful message that will be meaningful to the consumer.

If a licensee claims that she is number one, she should think in terms of proving the truth of that statement. Where did she retrieve the data to support this claim? What is the source of the data? Was this based on volume as reported in her local multiple listing service (MLS) over a certain period of time? Was it determined by a dollar amount of sales? Was it based on a total number of transactions?

These are some sample questions that the licensee should ask herself before making such a statement in her advertising. Once she has determined that she is number one based on a careful review of a reliable data source, it would be prudent to include a citation to the source of the data supporting the claim somewhere in the body of the ad. This practice could prevent complaints from being filed.