To Call or Not to Call: Dealing with the Do-Not-Call Registry

Renae Virata | August 28, 2015 | Best Practices

Sometimes as real estate agents, you have to reach out to potential home sellers that you’ve never been in contact with before. This is usually the case, for example, with expired listings or with someone whom  you may have become privvy to knowing is in the market to sell their home. But did you know the rules regarding making such cold calls to avoid legal fines and issues?

The Do-Not-Call Registry

In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission developed a national Do-Not-Call Registry in which citizens can include their name and home or cell phone number so that telemarketers could not call them. Unfortunately, this does include real estate agents. Since the list was created, more than 50 million people have signed on to be included in the registry. That’s a lot of potential home sellers and buyers that can’t be contacted!

States also have D0-Not-Call lists, but the federal laws pre-empt the state ones. The only way that a state law is above a federal law is if the state law is more restrictive. An example is of this is calling-time restrictions.

How to Avoid Breaking the Law

You can keep to the letter of law in a couple simple ways. When you collect names and contact information, whether it’s a paper form or online, be sure you have a disclaimer that mentions that that person gives you permission to contact them regarding your business.

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The law also requires you to check your list against the registry every 31 days and to remove those names and numbers immediately.

When Can or Can’t You Call?

  • If you have had a prior relationship with the person or have it in some form of writing that you can contact this person, then you have every right to do so. This means, for example, if you had an expired listing, you can contact that person again. If you call sellers from an expired listing that was not listed with you, however, you should check the Do-Not-Call Registry first to make sure you aren’t making an unsolicited call. This goes for FSBO sellers, too.
  • If a buyer calls about a specific property, you can never call that person about unrelated properties.
  • If someone refers you to a potential seller or buyer, then you still need to check the registry. No reassurance on the part of the referrer guarantees compliance with the federal law. You will still need in writing, like some form of introduction in an email, to ensure you are following the rules. Then, it’s up to the potential client to initiate direct contact.
  • If someone who was interested in learning more about a property you advertised calls but after a time no longer wants calls from you, be sure you remove them from your list. Otherwise, you have up to three months to continue making calls until the request is made.

Making calls is and should be an important part of your real estate business’ marketing strategy. Just make sure you and your team are aware of the laws so that you can protect your business and avoid costly fines.

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Renae Virata