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Protecting Seller Privacy

June 13 2012

Perhaps what’s even worse than making mistakes about your own privacy is violating someone else’s. This is particularly true when you’re trying to build a trusting relationship with the person, as is the case between agents and their clients. However, protecting privacy has become particularly challenging as our industry becomes more concentrated on the Internet. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways you can protect your sellers’ privacy online.

Property Photos
Don’t kid yourself – once you’ve posted something online, you can never guarantee that it’s gone forever. Sure, you can delete the article, Web page, picture, or social media post; but how do you know that someone hasn’t already taken a screenshot or otherwise pulled the content. That’s why you should be extra cautious about the property photos you post for your listings.  The main things you should watch out for include:

  1. Photos that show a car in the driveway with a readable license plate.
  2. Photos that have people in them, particularly children.
  3. Photos of the child’s bedroom inside the house.

Your MLS, broker, and/or Association may have specific guidelines related to property photos. So definitely read up on those and see if they have any additional rules for photography.

Explaining Privacy Implications of MLS vs. Syndication
We also recommend you go a step further. Have a conversation with the seller explaining that, in the digital age, privacy management is not easy. Then, discuss the privacy implications of the various online marketing channels that are available.

Let sellers know that they may choose to only market the home for sale in the MLS. More property is viewed in the MLS than any other marketing channel and the privacy of the client is 100% secure. This may be a great first step before you begin to market property through the IDX program.

Clearly, IDX would be the second step. Many homebuyers who are working with an agent or a broker will use the broker website for search. By exposing the listing to consumers on every agent and broker website, you reach a huge audience.  Moreover, MLSs require that listings in their IDX program be removed when they are no longer for sale.

The third step would be marketing the property through listing syndication. Listing syndication extends the cast of your net for a buyer. Unfortunately, you will have no control over how the data is secured on these websites. These sites will often display information about a listing that you have little control over, despite your best efforts. They may even display listing information after the listing agreement has ended. It is very difficult for the seller’s privacy to be managed by their agent in these environments – especially if you syndicate to hundreds of websites. It is crucial that you explain this to the seller during the listing appointment.

Just the Beginning
These are just a few of the online privacy considerations that agents must keep in mind. What other challenges have you run into? Please comment below.