As in other professions, real estate agents are sometimes looked upon with apprehension. Several years ago, I determined that it was up to us, as practitioners, to improve our reputation and ensure integrity through the REALTORS Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics sets us apart from other professions and encourages cooperation between brokers and agents, which in turn benefits the consumer.
Initially, I became involved in ethics and professional standards thanks to Steve Casper, a long-time Cincinnati real estate professional, who appointed me chairperson of the Ohio REALTORS Professional Standards Committee, the year he served as association president, in 1988. Since that time, I have continued my involvement in professional standards at the local, state and national levels. In 2014 I was honored to serve as the National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) professional standards chairperson.
I am proud of the fact that Ohio, way back in 1991, was one of the first states to require real estate licensees to attend a three-hour course on the Ohio Canons of Ethics under the Ohio revised code every three years without exception. As Realtors, a real estate professional who is also a member of a local Realtor association, we are also required to attend a course on the Code of Ethics every two years. These classes are to ensure real estate professionals are maintaining and practicing the conduct and values established in our ethics and professional standards.
Our Realtors organization, which was founded in 1908, adopted basic rules of professional conduct in business affairs in 1913. Although changed and greatly expanded over the years, it still governs our conduct toward clients, the public and fellow real estate professionals.
While it might sound lofty, the preamble to the 17 articles of the Code of Ethics speaks volumes as to our duty, which includes something as basic as the golden rule.
“Under all is the land. Upon its wise utilization and widely allocated township depends upon the survival and growth of free institutions and of our civilization. REALTORS should recognize that the interest of the nation and its citizens require the highest and best use and the widest distribution of land ownership. They require the creation of adequate housing, the building of functioning cities, the development of productive industry and farms, and the preservation of a healthful environment.”
The articles themselves (that support the preamble) address:
- Representation of buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants.
- How we must behave regarding honesty, integrity and cooperation with other brokers.
- The articles explain how to avoid conflicts of interest, proper allocation of funds and receipt of compensation.
While the articles go into extensive detail, what it essentially addresses is trustworthy behavior. Also, our Code of Ethics contains the most extensive civil rights language regarding race, gender and sex discrimination. Our trade association has made great strides in this area, and that is something in which we can unite.