• There are plenty of gray areas in the world of real estate ethics
  • Miami brokers and agents should try to be transparent with each other and avoid any obvious violations
  • Consider long-term reputations over short-term gains

In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.

This month’s situation: A top Miami agent believes they may have skirted the line on an ethical issue, but did not break any actual rules.

Agent Perspective

I take the NAR Code of Ethics seriously, and have always maintained a clean reputation in my office and industry.

However, without going into specifics, I recently went a little bit past a gray area of generally-accepted practices and benefitted by doing so. No one got hurt and I did not violate any actual office or association rules, but I feel a little badly about it now.

I certainly don’t plan to do it again – should I bother discussing it with my broker or just move past it?

Broker Perspective

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and agents should always feel comfortable approaching their brokers about any ethical concerns. And it is 100 percent the broker’s responsibility to provide that level of comfort.

Once that has been established, the agent should certainly spill the beans.

First of all, it is possible they have NOT actually crossed any ethical boundaries, and have no need to feel guilty. On the flip side, agents may not be aware of how their actions have actually hurt their colleagues, clients, offices or themselves, and the broker needs to be tough about those things.

In cases where the violation has been repeated or egregious, the broker may have to demand some form of retribution or restitution.

It should be noted that neither the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation or Miami Association of Realtors grant amnesty for self-reporters of ethical violations – so brokers are the “safest” outlets for confession in these matters. Also, brokers who know about a possible violation are in the best position to defend and prepare for it, in case it rears its ugly head down the road.

How to meet halfway

Two issues are paramount here – putting the value of long-term reputations over short-term gains, and avoiding the setting of bad precedents. Both the agent and the broker should understand the importance of good ethical behavior for all real estate professionals, and recognize why “character counts” over the long haul. (The real estate community is a small one, and rumors and innuendo travel fast.)

In addition, any broker who ignores or downplays serious ethical breaches is just asking for trouble. The agent in question may feel empowered to repeat the offense, as will their colleagues when word gets out that the broker gave a pass – even once!

Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, and also a working Realtor who sells more than 150 homes a year.

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