Values, Brand, And The REALTOR® Code Of Ethics

As we work together to build the REALTOR® brand and inspire trust between the REALTOR® community and consumers, we would be remiss if we failed to remind each other that truly adhering to our Code of Ethics – and educating consumers about it – is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve our image.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, here is a timeless article from Jeff Turner, President of RealSatisfied, on that very same topic.


by Jeff Turner
March 27, 2014

Mike Pennington added an “interesting” comment to yesterday’s post highlighting the difference between values and ethics  as it relates to values-based leadership. He said, “This confusion is especially true in professions where there is a written ‘Code of Ethics.’ Many times it ‘seems’ that the most successful are the ones who follow the code least often.”

I say “interesting” for one very specific reason – this perception, a perception that appears to be widely held, shouldn’t exist.

Adopted in 1913 and ammended 36 times in the last 101 years, The REALTOR® Code of Ethics has 17 Articles, with a variety of “Standards of Practice” that define behaviors inside each article. It’s not a difficult code to read in it’s entirety. Nor is it difficult to understand. And, quite frankly, the gist of the code is summed up very well in the preambe and in the main language of the Article 1.

The preamble itself is an inspiring piece of writing. It explains that the seriousness of the interests around real estate “impose obligations beyond those of ordinary commerce. They impose grave social responsibility and a patriotic duty to which REALTORS® should dedicate themselves, and for which they should be diligent in preparing themselves. REALTORS®, therefore, are zealous to maintain and improve the standards of their calling and share with their fellow REALTORS® a common responsibility for its integrity and honor.” It ends by placing this burden not just on how a REALTOR® conducts themselves in commerce, but “to observe its spirit in all of their activities whether conducted personally, through associates or others, or via technological means, and to conduct their business in accordance with the tenets set forth below. (Amended 1/07) ”

It speaks to a higher calling, a calling that goes beyond what might be required by law. And Article 1 is clear, “When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an agent, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client. This obligation to the client is primary, but it does not relieve REALTORS® of their obligation to treat all parties honestly. When serving a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant or other party in a non-agency capacity, REALTORS® remain obligated to treat all parties honestly. (Amended 1/01)”

If the code is being enforced, there is no way Mike’s perception should be true. Yet, it is. And it’s not just Mike who feels this way. Gallup poll after Gallup poll indicates that the public does not see a REALTOR® – I mean real estate agents – living at the standard this code mandates. (edit: it was pointed out to me that the poll doesn’t ask about “REALTORS®”, it asks about “real estate agents.” I’m not sure the general public really knows the difference.)

On average, 1 out of every 4 people polled by Gallup since 1977 would rate the ethics and honesty of real estate agents as “low or very low.” The highest it has ever been is 1 out of 5. I suppose that would be fine if the other 3 or 4 were rating them very high, but they are not. Year after year, the results show real estate agents with a vast majority of people polled placing their trust levels below mediocre. And while I have shared from stages in the past that this is partly a result of the internet’s impact on authority that was once based in the tightly-held possession of MLS data, the numbers have been basically the same since 1977.The internet is not the culprit and the problem is not new.

The widely held set of beliefs about what REALTORS® deliver and how they deliver it, as validated by the experience of everyone with whom they come into contact, The REALTOR® brand, is not what the REALTOR® Code of Ethics would like it to be. Whose responsibility is it to fix that? This is a conversation that almost got started on Twitter during the NAR Association Executives Institute Conference  in Baltimore a few days ago.


Related Articles:

Study shows perception of ABQ-Metro REALTORS® has room for improvement

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