Editor’s note: Inman News received a pile of mail this week from readers who wanted to praise or condemn yesterday’s story, “Rookie Realtor says no ethics in real estate.” This reader took exception to a joke about a mixed-religion parentage.

Dear Rookie,

Your friend who likes to joke that she’s “the product of a ‘mixed-marriage’: A Jew from New York and a Roman Catholic from New Jersey” should be an embarrassment to both her parents, their states and their respective faiths and ethnicities.

As a Jew whose family includes Christians and Roman Catholics, I find the inclusion of this statement personally offensive. As the CEO of a company proud of its racial, religious and ethnic diversity, a Realtor for 30 years and member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (no, I am not Hispanic, but I support the concept of increased Hispanic home ownership), I find it professionally offensive. As a reader (and a former newspaper columnist) I found the statement to be totally irrelevant and immaterial to the sentences that followed it. You should be embarrassed for thinking this statement regarding her background is somehow responsible for her failure to understand that basic morals and ethics don’t revolve around financial need, but are formed by the core values learned at home, in school and in the chosen profession of an individual.

Your article makes a valid (if obvious) point regarding the number of times that the Realtor Code of Ethics is reviewed by professionals and the need for all of the members of our profession to review the changes to the code annually. In fact, unethical behavior is often the result of a lack of knowledge rather than some evil intent on the part of the transgressing agent. New agents in the business can really be a problem, but they can be educated. After all, you don’t shoot a dog in the head when it makes a mistake; you teach it the right things to do.) It is that need which the national association addresses in its required continuing ethics training for members, and it is for that reason that mandated education is one of the sanctions commonly utilized by Realtor professional standards panels.

Your friend’s statement that “you’ll realize this ‘ethics thing’ isn’t really law, but something that you can bend” is indicative of a malicious intent on her part or the part of the individual presenting that view to the public, but normally isn’t the reason agents violate the code. This person obviously needs to find another line of work where her personal morality would be more appropriate. I would like make a scathing suggestion as to what profession that might be, but I just can’t think of a legal way to make a living where someone like that should be exposed to the public.

The bottom line of ethical behavior is simply this: If you would be embarrassed to tell your parents, your priest, your preacher, your rabbi or your spouse about your business practices, you should probably change them.

I have been a participant in the professional standards process on a local level as a panel chair and committee chair, twice chair of the state Professional Standards Committee, certified twice as an instructor in professional standards, a member of the national association’s Professional Standards Committee since 1998, and in my second year as a member of the Interpretations and Procedures Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Committee. I was an award-winning salesperson before becoming CEO of one of the 100 largest real estate firms in the United States based on units sold. With that experience, I can assure you that the true real estate professional values and understands the Code of Ethics.

In 33 years in the business, coming from a very financially modest background and living through several recessions, I have never needed to sink to the level alluded to in your article and I managed to send my son to private school and private university without incurring student debt. We struggled many times, but we never compromised our ethics.

I could go on and on about this subject, about which so many of us are passionate, but I would rather quote two statements from a 1978 article, “The Realtor’s Code of Ethics–A Gift of Vision”:

“The code is an unusual gift of vision: the vision of those who dreamed that the business of real estate could become a profession, the vision of those who believed that the search for the highest and best use of the land required the highest and best measures of professional responsibility, and the vision of those who recognized private ownership of the land as indispensable to political democracy and a free and prosperous citizenry.”

“In its code of ethics the family of Realtors has been offered a farsighted vision of the profession as it could be and should be. This vision, however, must not be blurred by myopic applications of the code for shortsighted gains at the expense of farsighted objectives. A Realtor who serves the public serves himself by guaranteeing his future.”

Everyone has to start somewhere, and I don’t fault you for being a Rookie, (although I do think your broker/manager seems to have been remiss in his or her educational efforts), but I would invite you to either join the profession in our efforts to improve ourselves or go be a rookie at something else.

William H. Lublin
CEO
Century 21 Advantage Gold
Philadelphia

***

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