Do Real Estate Brokers Lie?

Is it fair to say that real estate brokers lie? That allegation has become the center of a massive dispute between a California real estate broker and the Orange County Association of Realtors.

Larry Roberts is a California real estate broker who operates the IrvineHousingBlog.com. As with a huge number of other real estate brokers, he opines about various issues related to local real estate and other matters.

And so it happened that in March Roberts published a blog item which said in part that real estate brokers “are liars. We all know that, yet we tolerate and even encourage the behavior. Why would anyone want to hear bullshit? Apparently some people do. That doesn’t make much sense to me either.”

The response from OCAR has been to file a disciplinary complaint against Roberts claiming he violated Article 15 of the organization’s Code of Ethics, a provision which says association members should not “knowingly lie about competitors.”

Roberts, via his attorney, Scott Sims, notes that “Roberts is not a member of the OCAR, OCAR has no right to initiate a disciplinary proceeding against Roberts, and no grievance panel convened by OCAR has jurisdiction over Roberts. Accordingly, even if Roberts had engaged in wrongdoing (which he has not), any disciplinary action taken by an OCAR grievance panel would carry no legal force and effect and OCAR would be exposing itself to liability for any and all damages to Roberts resulting from any disciplinary action.”


If the question is whether Roberts is provocative the answer is yes. So what? Roberts has his opinion, you and I have ours, and everyone can individually decide what they think. The free exchange of ideas — including strongly-expressed ideas — is healthy, useful and a basic American value, one expressed clearly in the First Amendment.

St. George Tucker, author of the Americanized version Blackstone’s Commentaries, put it this way in 1803:

“Liberty of speech and of discussion in all speculative matters, consists in the absolute and uncontrollable right of speaking, writing, and publishing, our opinions concerning any subject, whether religious, philosophical, or political….”

If you don’t like Robert’s view then go to his blog and post a comment which tears into his opinions. No need to be shy.

Or, ignore him.

There are more than a trillion pages that have been indexed by Google. If you don’t make a big deal out of Roberts’ comment it will sink in an ocean of content.

Instead, by filing a grievance, OCAR has amplified the conversation and given Roberts a huge platform for his views.


Real estate licensees typically have an obligation to avoid error, exaggeration,
misrepresentation, or concealment of material facts. However, they can be and should be advocates for their client’s interests and toward that end they can engage in puffery.

“Puffery,” explains Wikipedia, “as a legal term refers to promotional statements and claims that express subjective rather than objective views, such that no reasonable person would take them literally. Puffery serves to ‘puff up’ an exaggerated image of what is being described and is especially featured in testimonials.”

In other words, a listing broker has every right to say, “gee, I really love the kitchen. Look at those great cabinets and the terrific view of the patio.” That’s puffery and should be taken for what it represents: salesmanship and advocacy. Everybody in every field and profession does that.

What the listing broker can’t say is that “the property has 20,000 square feet of ground” when it only has 15,000 square feet. That’s a lie and should be punished.

It will be interesting to see where the dispute between Roberts and OCAR winds up. Stay tuned.

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