Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, July 10, 2020

Realtor ethics code works for buyers, sellers

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 that provides clients with the highest degree of professionalism 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, we continue to take the code and professionalism in our industry seriously.

The code is divided into three 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 that they will go to bat for you during the transaction. The Realtor will assist you with negotiations, present your offers and counteroffers quickly, and generally 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.”

This refers to the need for Realtors to confirm appointments for showings. In addition to the code, our local rules provide that a key box on a property is not an open invitation to show the property. Sellers have a right to know when an agent will show their home, who will be showing it and how long they were on the property.

Not only is this a reasonable expectation for sellers in regard to privacy, it also allows the homeowner to tidy up, make arrangements for pets or leave the premises for a specific amount of time. By adhering to the timeframe of the confirmed showing, the Realtor demonstrates his or her 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 is the alarm disarmed? If there are pets in the home, what precautions should be taken to keep them contained?

Again, not only are these reasonable expectations, they demonstrate a respect for the person’s property and willingness to safeguard against damages or loss.

One aspect of the code on which the industry is heavily focused is its 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 characterize how a Realtor would conduct themselves in a transaction.

Throughout the ongoing pandemic, Realtors 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 the public’s health, safety and economic security. We continue to encourage our members to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to protect their clients, customers and the owners whose properties they are showing.

Even before the new mask mandate for Hamilton County, Realtors had a social responsibility to show leadership by taking health and safety precautions and following the wishes of the public throughout entire transactions.

I’m pleased with how well our industry has pivoted to embrace new norms ranging from virtual showings all the way to the contactless closing table. We live in a technological era that makes all of this possible and enables Realtors to keep the local economy going in a safe and healthy way for everyone involved.

Our code of ethics is ever-evolving, as is our ongoing work to raise the bar of professionalism. We do it to ensure our clients and communities are better served by all Realtors. That’s Who We R.

Greater Chattanooga Realtors is The Voice of Real Estate in Greater Chattanooga. A regional organization with more than 2,000 members, Greater Chattanooga Realtors is one of 300 local boards and associations of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. Greater Chattanooga Realtors services Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. For more information, visit www.gcar.net or call 423 698-8001.