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The Real Estate Agent’s Guide to Email Marketing Compliance + CAN-SPAM

Claire Queally
August 28, 2017
Real Estate Email Marketing Compliance

Like most things, a solid reputation is essential to success in email marketing. And it’s not just what your clients think of you; it’s a calculation based on email deliverability and the strength of your contact list. Here’s what you need to know about email compliance + CAN-SPAM for Real Estate Agents.

As a real estate agent, every marketing email you send is subject to spam laws laid out by CAN-SPAM. The law protects consumers from receiving unwanted and irrelevant emails. And if you haven’t already noticed, most spam filters do a pretty good job. According to ReturnPath, the average inbox placement rate hovers around 79 percent — which means that over 20 percent of permission-based emails never reach their intended recipient.

So what happens? When enough people flag an email as spam, most email services (i.e. Gmail, AOL) will block the sender’s IP address to prevent other users from receiving similar unwanted communications. Although an IP address typically identifies a specific computer or device, it may also represent an entire network of users associated with the same Email Service Provider (or ESP, which includes any company that provides email marketing or “bulk” email services). At OutboundEngine, this means that we are responsible for keeping spam rates as low as possible for all of our clients — otherwise, it could affect our entire database.

Since you probably don’t want to sift through official compliance guidelines and CAN-SPAM documentation, here is a high-level overview of what you need to know.

Part I: Email Quality

When you think about what kind of emails end up as spam, there is no doubt that the actual content of the email is one of the most important factors. However, it’s a bit more in-depth than you might think — as even the most impressive and legitimate campaigns are susceptible to these mistakes.

A single CAN-SPAM violation can be enormously costly (with every individual email in violation amounting to a $16,000 fine). Here’s a rundown of the main requirements, and our advice on how to move forward:

  • Do not include false or misleading information anywhere in your email, especially any identifying information like From, To and Reply-To.
  • Do not use deceptive subject lines. Feel free to be as creative as you want, but make sure the subject line is relevant to the email content.
  • Clearly identify if an email is an ad. The FTC defines an ad as “any content that advertises or promotes a commercial product or service, including content on a website operated for a commercial purpose.” However, this might not include every marketing email you send, as ‘transactional or relationship content’ is evaluated differently (and is thus not an ad).
  • Always provide a physical mailing address in your email. Unfortunately, this law can make independent agents (or other professionals who work from home) feel slightly uneasy. This is totally understandable, as your privacy is important — but for now, the law stands as is.
  • Make it easy for recipients to opt out. A self-explanatory, visible opt-out link must be present on every marketing email. The easier the opt-out process, the lower the chances a recipient will mark your email as spam. Remember: An unsubscribe is far less detrimental than a spam report!
  • Honor opt-out requests ASAP. Any opt-out link must be active for at least 30 days after the send date, and you must honor the opt-out request within 10 business days. We suggest processing all opt-out requests as quickly as possible, otherwise, you risk annoying the recipient and accumulating additional spam reports.
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. Even if a separate company is handling your email marketing, you are both legally responsible for compliance.

Part II: Contact List Quality

Even if you have an exemplary campaign that goes above and beyond the guidelines listed above, you’re not totally off the hook — as the quality of your contact list is equally important. These reasons can vary from person to person, but here are a few key reasons why spam reports are filed:

  • The recipient does not want the email. If someone does not want your email, he or she might be unfamiliar with you or your services. Since this can often lead to a spam report, we strongly advise adding only active and valid contacts to your list, including current and former clients, referrals and anyone else you might have a personal relationship with. Do not purchase, scrape or rent lists — although technically legal, this is an incredibly risky move.
  • The recipient is contacted much later than when they signed up. If someone does not remember signing up for your mailing list, you have a much higher risk of ending up in spam. Don’t wait too long to reach out to a contact you’ve earned organically. Update your contact list as frequently as possible so they can receive the next campaign.
  • Don’t assume you have permission. Even if you think someone could genuinely benefit from your services, he or she may be annoyed by unsolicited communication. If this is the case, it’s best to reach out on an individual level and grow your mailing list organically.


Although intimidating, CAN-SPAM is an enormously beneficial law that keeps all of our lives (and inboxes) sane. To learn more, check out any of our following posts:


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