Yelp for the PA Licensed Real Estate Agent

Like many real estate agents, I’m always interested in improving my web presence in beneficial ways. One of my recent focus areas has been to better leverage the Yelp platform, especially considering the free $300 advertising credit that they offered last week. There is real value in Yelp, but it is an easy place for a PA licensed agent to violate some basic Real Estate Commission Regulations.

The main problem is that PA licensed real estate agents cannot advertise themselves without advertising the name of their brokerage at least as prominently. This is not a show stopper for this platform, a rule following agent simply needs to append the name of their brokerage after their name when adding their business listing on Yelp. Something like: “Neil DiFranco – Elfant Wissahickon REALTORS®” should work (this one is taken though). Nothing special is required for the address, simply enter the physical address of your brokerage and you are golden.

The real issue starts when trying to enter phone numbers since the platform limits listings to just one. Complying with Real Estate Commission Regulations will require us to enter the phone number of the brokerage. This can make it difficult to confirm the business listing with Yelp when their automated system calls in on the brokerage number for a verification code. There is also an issue of advertising dollar return on investment. Any agent who is actually spending money to get their name out probably wants to be on the receiving end of the phone calls generated by that advertising. Only entering the brokerage number is not likely to connect prospective clients with the agent sponsoring the advertising.

I’ve had this conversation with Yelp a few times now (they occasionally call to encourage you to spend advertising dollars with them). The Yelp representatives, while helpful, like to point me to what other area real estate agents are doing every time I bring up the one number limitation. The “everyone else is doing it argument” doesn’t tend to sway me much and I’ve tried to make it clear that I cannot leverage their service until they make an adjustment.

But there may be hope! You can temporarily use the business address fields to hold a phone number. Enter something like “Office ###-###-### Ext ###” as Address 1 and enter the physical street address for Address 2. This allows the map thumbtack to function while helping the rule following agent display two phone numbers on their Yelp listing with equal prominence, one to reach the brokerage and one to reach the agent directly.

This phone number in the address field trick isn’t perfect. Yelp checks changes that you make to your listing every day or so and will reject your usage of the address field for a phone number. It will really only work if you are willing to update the listing almost every morning (I wonder how long it will take for them to block the changes completely). It certainly does not work with paid Yelp Ads.

A Yelp representative recently requested that I point them to the state rules and indicated that an adjustment to the platform would be considered if there is a good reason for it, but I doubt they will make any adjustments to allow two numbers. The easiest way to use Yelp while complying with PA Real Estate Commission Regulations is to just enter your brokerage number and refrain from using it for paid advertising. This allows you to at least have a presence on the platform even if you don’t directly receive the telephone leads.

Pertinent Regulations:
§ 35.305. Business name on advertisements.
(a)  Brokerage companies, including sole proprietorships, cemetery companies and rental listing referral agencies shall advertise or otherwise hold themselves out to the public only under the business name designated on their license.
(b)  Licensees who wish to use and advertise a nickname for their first names shall include the nickname on their licensure applications or biennial renewal applications.
(c)  An advertisement by an associate broker, salesperson, cemetery associate broker or cemetery salesperson shall contain the business name and telephone number of the employing broker. The names and telephone numbers shall be of equal size.
Real Estate Commission Advertising FAQ



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