You’re not sure if what you are seeing is real? There is no official stamp or any indication the website, or its information, is actually legit. Who can the consumer trust?
If you thought I was referring to fake news, Russian bots, or whatever it is Roger Stone does, you would be wrong. I was actually looking at a series of agent websites. The problem is, these websites and companies aren’t legal. In truth, they’re “bootlegs”.
On one hand, these sales Agents are doing exactly what they should be doing; branding their services in anyway they deem appropriate. For many, the franchise brand is a dated boat anchor. Today, it makes much more sense for Agents to create their own look, feel and direction. And, the great news is, Atlanta is one of the few markets in the U.S. that allows agents to self-brand.
But, there are rules. Very simple, inexpensive rules. Unfortunately, too many agents and their “marketing companies” are opting not to follow the rules. Sadly, this hurts everyone. Flaunting the rules will only invite regulators, who will then be forced to, “do something”, potentially ending the practice of self-branding.
That said, it’s a great time to review how simple the DBA rules are. “Doing Business As” (DBA) is a way for agents to create their own branded real estate entities. A great example of a DBA is Hamstead Realty. (https://hamsteadrealty.com)
Rule 1 – Register with GREC
As with all rules, it’s about transparency. Any Sales Agent can create, “Whatever They Name it Realty”. But, by Law, there must be a place the consumer can learn the true business identity of “Whatever They Name it Realty”. This is done largely for the purposes of logging complaints and reporting of ethics violations. For example a search of the GREC website displays Hamstead Realty being a DBA of Wynd Realty. This gives the consumer a channel for their voice—both good and bad.
Depending on the Broker, DBAs cost around $200 dollars. Hardly a burden. The downside, and probably the reason why we have bootleg agents, is because the registration process with GREC takes about 4-6 weeks. I have always suspected GREC made the DBA process just difficult enough to where many agents simply wouldn’t bother. For details on the DBA process, agents can refer to and download; Guide to Creating Your Own DBA Realty
There are very valid business reasons for registering DBAs. The cost is nominal. Agents who don’t register their DBA names must figure GREC will never find them—and they might be right. But GREC isn’t their problem—their fellow agents are. Agents competing against bootleggers will always remind customers if you cheat on your name—what else do you cheat or short cut? Being lazy is rarely a sought-after trait when consumers are looking for sales Agents.
Rule 2 – Publish Your Broker Information
DBA’s are designed for the Agent to “get away” from the brand of their Broker. Still, rules require Agents disclose their brokerage affiliation. A consumer should be able to visit an Agent branded website or a Facebook page and not only learn brokerage affiliation, but also how to contact that Broker.
Much like GREC registration, the requirement to disclose brokerage affiliation is primarily for consumer protection. Hamstead Realty has opted to have this information embedded within the footer of their website. (see below) A “footer”, certainly defines “out of the way”, yet is also a logical place a consumer would go to learn site detail. Most often, brokerage disclosure information is found, in small print, somewhere within a website’s, “Home” or “About” pages.
There ARE other rules associated with DBAs, but for the most part it, being legit takes only TWO simple rules and about $200 bucks. And yes, about a 6 week wait. In the larger view, these restrictions are nothing.
Agents of Atlanta, if you see, or know of others sliding on the DBA rules, gently remind them their $200 County/GREC registration fee contributes to, “the system” helping ensure DBAs are allowed for everyone.
Why a DBA?
Agent trends indicate a movement away from the national franchise to a more localized, boutique environment with a social approach. I encourage everyone to review HamsteadRealty.com to see how forward thinking agents are creating their own a full-service Realty Companies. Make no mistake, this approach is the future.
Newer agents, why join a national franchise, when localized boutiques, like Hamstead Realty, can offer you so much more for less? Experienced agents, why not take what you have learned over the years to carve out your own niche DBA? Technology enabled agents, why not create a DBA that reflects your skill set to leapfrog over others less technically inclined?
Today the DBA future is limitless. Help to keep it that way by shaming those who don’t play by the rules. And, cheer on today’s DBA leaders as they set out to change, for the better, the voice(s) of our local agent Community.