The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORSÂ®. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.
Jim Imhoff, Chairman, CEO, First Weber Group, Madison, Wisc.; Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, the National Association of REALTORSÂ®
Sherry Chris, President/CEO, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, Madison, N.J.
Candace Adams, President/CEO, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties, Wallingford, Conn.
Rick Haase, President, Latter & Blum REALTORSÂ®, New Orleans, La.
Jim Imhoff: No matter the state of the market or the economy, buying a home is still one of lifeâ€™s most important decisionsâ€”and most people faced with making it expect the same level of knowledge and integrity from their real estate agent as they expect from their medical doctors. That in itself is nothing new. It was foreseen and addressed more than 100 years ago when the founders of the National Association of REALTORSÂ® (NAR) wrote the REALTORÂ® Code of Ethics into the fabric of our industry. Now, in the age of social media, with consumers searching for references and reviews on everything from dentists to mustard sauce, it is more critical than ever to the success of real estate professionals to be cited and recommended publicly as trusted, reliable advisors. Thatâ€™s why the REALTORÂ® Code of Ethics has been our standard for over 100 years. So we are asking our panelists todayâ€”outstanding leaders known for their integrityâ€”how we can ensure that our agents are living up to the standards set by the Code of Ethics that guarantee honest dealings with clients, the public and other REALTORSÂ®? Sherry, what do you think?
Sherry Chris: I think there is nothing more important in our industry than the reputation of an agent and the brokerage he or she works with. Referrals, which are the lifeblood of our business, are a direct result of the ethical standards we demonstrateâ€”and thereâ€™s no question the REALTORÂ® Code of Ethics is critical to keeping those standards high. Itâ€™s the reason we insist on mandatory Ethics training by every REALTORÂ®.
Candace Adams: The standards set by the Code are central to every transactionâ€”so central that we laminate bookmarks and frame posters with the Articles of the Code as constant reminders to our agents. Although we have an on-staff attorney, every agent is held strictly accountable for knowing and maintaining the principles of the Code of Ethics.
Rick Haase: What the Code is, really, is a set of pledges for how REALTORSÂ® will engage with each other and with the publicâ€”for example, with disclosure issues, or ensuring earning commissions is secondary to the needs and interests of clients. We govern ourselves, so that government and other entities donâ€™t do it for usâ€”because they will almost surely get it wrong.
JI: NARâ€™s Professional Standards Committee has the opportunity to consider potential changes to the Code twice a year, in May and November. These are all volunteersâ€”members of the Interpretations and Procedures Advisory Board, staff at state and local associations, and REALTORSÂ® who take the time to determine what issues might be addressedâ€”so there are a lot of eyes and different groups involved at the national level to be sure the Code is updated and relevant. But complaints and alleged violations, as you know, are handled at state and local association levels. Do you think thatâ€™s important?
RH: Yes, issues should be handled locally. Itâ€™s the process you agree to when you join your local Board of REALTORSÂ®, and itâ€™s a process that works.
CA: Enforcement is important as well. Every REALTORÂ® must be held accountable.
SC: There is not much point in continuing education unless you are aware what can happen down the line if you do not maintain your obligations as an ethical, professional agent.
JI: On the other hand, itâ€™s just as critical for brokers to recognize and reward quality service. In our company, based on customer surveys, we present agents with quality of service awards that have nothing to do with productionâ€”only with recognized service excellence.
RH: Times have changed, but our values havenâ€™t, thanks to the REALTORÂ® Code of Ethics. If anything, we keep updating our values with specific reference to issues like gender identification and sexual orientation as they relate to fair housing.
SC: NAR does a great job keeping us aware of expectations. As brokers, we need to look for creative ways to keep those standards top of mind. You said it, Jimâ€”consumers trust us to help them make some of the most important decisions of their lives. We must aspire to the highest ideals so that we never violate that trust.
JI: Much more about the REALTORÂ® Code of Ethics can be found at www.REALTOR.org/code-of-ethics.