The Department of State here in New York has ruled that licensed real estate brokers and salespeople can no longer have titles other than licensed real estate broker or salesperson.
The Department considered them false and misleading advertising, as they were honorifics. We are independent contractors and have no legal status in the company we're affiliated with.
While this is true, the titles were not meaningless.
Back when we had them, our titles were determined by how much real estate we sold in a given period.
Brokers (those who didn't have a broker's license were not eligible for titles) who sold tons and tons--and there was a given minimum that could be considered tons and tons--were given a title something like "Executive Vice President," or "Managing Director," or sometimes "Executive Vice President, Managing Director."
Brokers who merely sold tons (there was a minimum for that, too) were called "Senior Vice President." Those who just sold a lot (again, more than a given minimum) were "Vice Presidents." Sometimes lesser beings were given the title "Senior Associate," or some variation thereof.
So if a broker had a title, it was an indication of success. Our clients knew by our titles that we were experienced and competent enough to have sold a significant amount of real estate.
Our titles looked nice on our business cards and automatic signatures and in the advertising for properties we represented. They made us feel good, and they gave us some deserved extra credibility with clients.
They have now been removed from everything from which they were removable, that is, our websites, our automatic signatures, our FaceBook business pages, our LinkedIn bios, our Twitter profiles, and on and on.
We're allowed to use our current business cards until we run out of them and have to order more, but the new ones can say no more and no less than either Licensed Associate Real Estate (or RE) Broker, or Licensed Real Estate (or RE) Salesperson, regardless of level of success.
Appeals have been made, and nets have been widely cast to find some other brief way of showing a degree of expertise. So far, to my mind at least, nothing really satisfactory has been found.
Sotheby's has come up with "Senior Global Real Estate Advisor" for some of its brokers which so far seems to be okay with the Department of State. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with the "Global" part. Yes, of course I have access to information about residential real estate around the globe. But it sounds a bit grandiose.
Titles that show a somewhat more modest (and non-corporate) sphere of influence, such as "Viscount" or "Senator" are not acceptable to the DOS either. I thought "Aunt" or maybe "Grandma" would give me a pleasant, familial yet authoritative appeal, but they both got a resounding nope, no way.
We'll see what other titles, if any, show up on websites.
So, bottom line, if your broker has been stripped of his title, it doesn't mean his company doesn't love him any more. And he's just as smart as he ever was. It just shows the state department's new rule is being obeyed.