Real estate brokers and corporations often use fictitious names when conducting activities requiring a real estate license.

Before using a fictitious name when rendering real estate services requiring a license, you need to first obtain an individual or corporate broker license from the Bureau of Real Estate (BRE) bearing the fictitious name. A real estate salesperson may not use a fictitious business name other than the one licensed to their broker by the BRE. [Calif. Business and Professions Code §10159.5, Bureau of Real Estate Regulation §2731]

These days, many real estate licensees have joined other licensees with similar goals and work ethics. They have created teams to improve the level of services offered their clients. In turn, their per-agent earnings are increased. In the process, they often adopt fictitious names to title their joint operation.

The use of “team names” such as “The John Smith Team” or “John Smith & Associates” are often included on “For Sale” signs, business cards and other promotional marketing pieces. However, unbeknownst to the licensee in many cases, these “team names” are considered fictitious business names. Thus, “team names” are subject to the state rules governing the use of fictitious names.

In past years, the BRE did not issue fictitious business names to brokers that included the name of a salesperson employed by them unless the broker’s name was also included in the fictitious business name. Due to the increased popularity of the use of “team names” by licensees, the BRE is now approving fictitious business names which contain only the name of their salespersons.

Team names are approved on the following conditions:

  • the request must be submitted by the employing broker;
  • the fictitious business name has been filed with the county clerk in which the broker’s main office is located;
  • the salesperson whose name is included in the fictitious business name is currently employed by the broker applying for the fictitious business name; and
  • the fictitious business name submitted for issuance includes the terms “team”, “associates”, or “group” or any other term that implies an existence of a team, as deemed appropriate by the department. [BRE Real Estate Bulletin Spring 2013]

The use of a fictitious business name containing the name of a real estate salesperson in any print or electronic advertising media, “For Sale” sign, or first point of contact material, requires inclusion of the name and real estate license number of the employing broker as well as the license number of the salesperson.

When the BRE becomes aware of a licensee operating with a non-compliant “team name,” either on their own investigations or through a complaint, the BRE opens a compliance case for the improper use of the “team name.” The BRE then sends a warning requesting compliance and proper registration of the “team name” to the licensee and the employing broker. The licensee and employing broker have four weeks to comply or quit using the non-compliant “team name.” If the BRE warning is complied with, and not disregarded or ignored, no disciplinary action will be taken.

Editor’s note – Requests for additional information were answered by the BRE’s Fresno office. BRE’s satellite offices are more accessible than their Sacramento office. Contacting Sacramento almost always involves long hold times, transfers to voice mail and/or difficulty getting to the correct person. Keep this in mind if you need to contact the BRE!