By Jason Burkholder
Do you know where your ethics are? That’s the question the National Association of Realtors (NAR) wants to know the answer to. As you may know, this year it’s time for us to once again complete the quadrennial Ethics Training requirement that is part of your continued membership in this association. The fine folks at your local associations provide many opportunities for you to do this by the end of this year, including an online option, so we won’t dwell on how you are going to complete this required task.
I though it would be fun though to cover a few finer points of our Code of Ethics. You’ve read the Code of Ethics right? No? Hmm, well for those that haven’t read the Code of Ethics, maybe when you are done reading this article you can go to Realtor.org and download a copy for yourself. That way, you can be sure you are always in compliance with the nuances of the Code.
For those who have read the code, how about this:
• Article 1 details the “duty” we have to put the interests of our clients first, above all others, and that we have the obligation to treat all parties honestly. Did you know that Standard of Practice 1-6 of this Article also states that we have the obligation to “Submit all offers and counter offers objectively and as quickly as possible?” Could it be an ethical violation if instead of presenting a written counter offer that was verbally accepted by both parties, you decide to spend the day on the golf course, and while you are golfing another offer appears, which in turn makes your original offer lose out? Maybe so, I guess it depends on who is defining the term “as quickly as possible.” Seems clear cut to me though. Probably better to err on the side of caution and get it signed immediately.
• Article 9 specifies that Realtors shall assure all contracts, agreements, leases, etc., be in writing. No news there, except that Standard of Practice 9-1 further obligates you to ensure that such documents are kept current through the use of extensions and amendments. So, the next time you are in a transaction with another agent who misses a contractual deadline and attempts to produce an extension or amendment on behalf of a client after the fact, could you rightfully remind them that not only is their client not complying with the terms of the agreement, but that they most likely committed an ethical violation as well?
• Article 12 specifies that we should be honest and truthful in all advertising. No worries there right? Wait a minute, when is the last time you updated your Web site? Standard of Practice 12-8 specifies that Realtors are obligated to present accurate information on their Web sites, to make a reasonable effort to ensure the information is current and that as soon as it is apparent the information is inaccurate, Realtors shall promptly take corrective action. So, by leaving a sold listing on a Web site two months after you know it has closed, are you committing an ethics violation? I would say yes, you are.
So many details, so little time to think about them all. In the end, however, by not being familiar with the requirements of the Code of Ethics, you are doing yourself and your broker a great disservice. Take the time to read the Code of Ethics, and while you’re at it, read the Code of Ethics that your state and local associations require you to adhere to as well. After all, I wouldn’t want to find out I committed an ethical violation by hearing it in a formal complaint hearing, would you?
Jason Burkholder is a broker and sales manager with Weichert Realtors – Engle & Hambright, the oldest real estate firm in Lancaster, Pa. Having won numerous sales awards during his career as a sales agent, Burkholder now spends most of his time recruiting, managing and coaching his team of “Neighborhood Experts” to higher production. To learn more, e-mail him at Jason@JasonsHomes.com.
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