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Who’s Really No. 1 in Chicago? A Look at Brokerage and Agent Advertising

by James F. McClister

False Claims vs. Ambiguous Language

Because Illinois state law applies to misleading claims of verifiable status, like saying you are the No. 1 salesperson in Chicago, the accusation of false advertising can only be levied in very specific circumstances, which allows for a lot of marketing leeway.

The problem is especially prevalent online, where expansive, low-cost platforms allow for brokerages and agents on any budget to say pretty much whatever they’d like without much regulation.

Consider, again, the slew of brokerages in Chicago who pepper the local industry with unqualified, often contradicting claims of greatness and leadership. However, to an online reader who’s only just beginning their search for a real estate agent or brokerage to work with, the myriad claims of being No. 1 in Chicago, leaders in technology, the best Realtor or some variation of vague aggrandizement can make the selection process confusing. For most, purchasing a home will be the largest investment they’ll ever make, which is why buyers who want to work with Realtors look for the best.

Whether the designations are inaccurate or simply confusing, each lends itself to further damaging the industry’s reputation of professionalism. But not all ads are misleading. Some brokerages are dedicated to maintaining integrity throughout their marketing campaigns.

But not every ad is misleading. For instance, an ad touting the sales person as a Chicagoland top producer, but qualifying the information by providing the name of the organization that originally granted him or her the distinction, is likely to be fine.

Often real estate professionals will attain intra-brokerage statuses, but fail to adequately explain the accolade when including it in marketing materials.

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