The National Association of Realtors (NAR), as well as many state licensing boards, require agents to sign, observe and follow a Code of Ethics. While states such as New York, require each agent to complete a refresher course on ethics, on a regularly prescribed basis, until, and unless, these codes become habit, and agents automatically live, breathe and follow an ethical code, and behave accordingly, the purpose will not be achieved. Ethics must be far more than simply a code or set of words, but how we behave, every day, with every customer or client. This goes well beyond the laws, which speak about discrimination and protected classes, etc. It also goes far beyond merely being honest. It is taking seriously ones commitment to serve properly and ethically! Below are 5 basic things ethics should mean to a real estate agent.
1. Absolute confidentiality: Within legal limits, when a buyer or seller hires an agent, and a client – relationship is created, the agent must listen, but not repeat any pertinent information, concerns, etc, to anyone, without his client’s express permission. For example, a homeowner’s financial or personal situation, or anything (excluding something considered material, in nature) which might adversely impact your client, must not be repeated. A Buyers Representative must maintain the same high ethics and integrity, with his clients. While this discussion is about clients, understand that if you are representing a potential buyer, and the relationship is that of a customer, in fact, your allegiance is to the homeowner. Understand the difference between clients and customers!
2. Allegiance to client: If you are a Listing Agent, you can’t tell a customer – buyer, what he might be able to offer (or homeowner might be willing to accept). You can only discuss material issues or defects, but nothing about the individuals you have been hired to represent!
3. Absolute integrity, to clients and general public: Doesn’t it make sense you must always tell the truth about matters related to a real estate transaction? While your allegiance is to your client, you must never distort or lie about facts, related to the house, etc., to any customers, or potential ones!
4. Ethical treatment with colleagues: You owe other agents a degree of respect, honesty, integrity and ethics! While you must prioritize your client’s needs, etc, you must promptly respond to your colleagues, submit offers promptly and fairly, and be cooperative.
5. Do the right thing!: Perhaps everyone’s personal code should be based on the Golden Rule, and doing the right thing! Be honest, fair, and professional!
While this is not anywhere near a thorough examination of professional ethics, it is a good first step, towards developing the proper mindset! Be ethical always!