Brandi Pearl Thompson: The REALTOR Code Of Ethics In A Fast Market
Wednesday, July 8, 2020 - by Brandi Pearl Thompson, president, Greater Chattanooga Realtors
You probably already know that working with a Realtor gives buyers, sellers, and investors many advantages they need to succeed in today’s real estate market. But did you know another advantage of working with a Realtor is the assurance that we subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics, which provides clients with the highest degree of professionalism, ethics, and service?
The National Association of Realtors adopted our Code of Ethics in 1913 and was only the second trade or business group in the U.S.
to adopt mandatory ethical standards for its members. More than 100 years later, the Code and professionalism in our industry is something we take seriously.
The Code is divided into three distinct sections: Duties to Clients and Customers, Duties to the Public, and Duties to other REALTORS. For starters, Realtors pledge “to protect and promote the interests of their client” and to “avoid misrepresentation or concealment of pertinent facts related to the property or transaction.” When you work with a Realtor in an agency capacity – meaning they are working for you, not the other side of the transaction – you should expect they will go to bat for you during the transaction. The Realtor will assist you with negotiations, present your offers and counter-offer quickly, and in general, work to achieve your interests.
The Code is the compass by which consumers can gauge reasonable expectations. For example, Realtors “shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or listing brokers.” I’m talking about the need for Realtors to confirm showing appointments. In addition to the Code, our local rules provide that a keybox on a property is not an open invitation to show the property. Sellers have a right to know when their home will be shown, by whom, and how long they were in the property. Not only is this a reasonable expectation for Sellers in regards to privacy, but it also provides the opportunity to tidy up, make arrangements for pets, or leave the premises for a specific amount of time. Adhering to the confirmed showing timeframe shows the REALTOR’s respect for the person’s privacy and well-being.
Along these same lines, Realtors should follow all showing instructions. Sellers should review these directives with their Realtor, who, through the multiple listing service, communicates those instructions to buyer’s representatives. Which lights should remain on for security purposes? Which interior doors should be secured? How do you arm/disarm the alarm? If there are pets in the home, what precautions should be taken to keep those pets contained? Again, not only are these reasonable expectations, it demonstrates a respect for the person’s property and willingness to safeguard against damages or loss.
One aspect the Code heavily focused on in recent weeks across the industry is the Code’s clear admonishment against discrimination. With the Code’s prohibition to “deny equal professional services to any person for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity,” Realtors “shall not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate” against anyone in the protected classes. Realtors should be mindful that the public is always watching – on social media, at social engagements, and in conversations and activities unrelated to real estate transactions. It would be hard to argue that making general derogatory remarks about a protected class does not reflect on or characterize how a Realtor would conduct themselves in a transaction.
Throughout the ongoing pandemic, REALTORS locally have been deemed essential, which comes with both great responsibilities and opportunities. It means Realtors play a critical role in the community by ensuring the continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic security. We continue to encourage our members to adhere to CDC guidelines to protect their clients, customers, and the owners whose properties they are showing. Even before the recent mask mandate for Hamilton County, Realtors have a social responsibility to show leadership – taking safety and health precautions, as well as following related requests of the public throughout the entire transactions.
I am pleased at how well our industry has pivoted to embrace new norms from virtual showings all the way to the contactless closing table. We live in a great technology era, which makes all of this possible and enables Realtors to keep the local economy going in a safe and healthy way for all involved. Our ever-evolving Code of Ethics is ever-evolving, as is our ongoing work to raise the professionalism bar. We do it to ensure our clients and communities are better served by all Realtors. That’s Who We R.