I wonder whether some of my fellow Realtors realize how often they break (or at least bend) the very Code of Ethics they’re obligated to uphold and protect as a member of the National Association of Realtors?

More important, I wonder whether buyers and sellers know how often some agents break those rules?

If you are a Realtor, when was the last time you read NAR’s Code of Ethics?Click here.

I realize I obtained my license only last fall. I’m still trying to close my first deal, and I readily admit most agents know a lot more about the nuts and bolts of the real estate business than I do.

But before every Realtor with a keyboard fires off a note suggesting I don’t have the experience to comment on ethical issues, I’d like to suggest this might be the only area where I am more qualified than my veteran colleagues to make some observations.

NAR officials and the association’s own Web site boast that a key difference between a Realtor and a run-of-the-mill agent is that “the term Realtor…identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.”

Yet, a recent online survey by Inman News, which publishes this column, asked a simple question: “If you are a Realtor, when was the last time you read NAR’s Code of Ethics?”

Twenty-three percent of the respondents said they had read the code in the past 30 days, 25 percent said they had read it in the past six months and 19 percent last reviewed it sometime within the last year. But 10 had reviewed it between one and five years ago. That’s troublesome because the code is amended almost every year.

And get this: 12 percent of the respondents said they had never read their much-ballyhooed ethical code at all.

When I talk with other rookie agents, at least one of us always has a story about some questionable deal or business practice we’ve recently seen more seasoned Realtors engage in.

Maybe it’s because, as newcomers, the ethics lessons we learned in real estate classes just a few months ago are still fresh in our mind. Or maybe it’s because we’re just scared to death of doing something wrong. After all, a real estate office is like most other workplaces: The boss is more likely to look the other way when a longtime employee, especially a top-producer, breaks the rules than when the same rule is broken by a new employee who’s still in the probationary period.

But some cynics, including my best friend, suggest that rookies like me are mindful of the everyday ethical issues that Realtors face simply because we haven’t sold a home yet – and that our concerns will fade as soon as we build up a steady business and start enjoying the trappings of success.

By way of explanation, my best friend likes to joke that she’s “the product of a ‘mixed-marriage’: A Jew from New York and a Roman Catholic from New Jersey.” I divulge this only because I hope it will help you understand what she says or at least how she says it.

“You just wait,” my friend says. “Once you start making tons of money, the first thing you’re gonna do is run out and buy some nice clothes. Then you’ll lease a luxury car, and then you’ll buy a vacation home.

“And then, here’s what’s gonna happen: You’re gonna have a coupla months where you don’t sell anything, so you’re not gonna be able to pay all the bills for that nice stuff you have. That’s when you’ll realize this ‘ethics thing’ isn’t really law, but something that you can bend – they (NAR) aren’t serious about going after ‘bad Realtors’ who break the rules, and the state isn’t gonna go after you because the Realtors won’t do it first.”

Ethically speaking, I hope my friend is wrong. But practically speaking, I’m afraid she may be right.

Send your questions to Rookie@inman.com.


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