From the Realtor Code of Ethics, Standard of Practice 1-16: “Realtors shall not access or use, or permit or enable others to access or use, listed or managed property on terms or conditions other than those authorized by the owner or seller.”
Our profession is based on this concept and yet, for whatever reason, it continues to experience what must be described either as a lack of respect for private property or overlooking it so that agents can pursue a commission check.
Admittedly, owners seeking to sell property put themselves in a situation that is unique if not uncomfortable: they allow people they do not know to walk through their private domain, typically with little — if any — proof that the “lookers” are qualified to buy, led by an agent they do not know. Using a lockbox adds to the uncertainty because this happens in their absence.
Although we assume that most agents and their clients have the best of intentions, and we understand that selling property requires visits that might involve little notice and some degree of inconvenience, it should not include showing up late without calling, doors left unlocked, lights and heaters left on or other reported concerns.
It should never include a failure to cancel an appointment, let alone entering someone’s “castle” without specific permission.
As a Realtor, I have a governing document called a Code of Ethics. I contrast ethics with the concept of professionalism, which refers to how we do what we do.
The concept of unauthorized access, formerly looked at as a lack of professionalism, has been rightfully elevated to an ethical issue, which means that offended parties have recourse for filing complaints against offenders.
Whether to file a complaint is not an easy decision, especially if you have someone interested in buying your property. In addition, the Code of Ethics pertains to Realtors or licensees who are members of the largest trade organization in America (the National Association of Realtors).
What recourse do clients and customers of non-member real estate agents have? I do not know.
5 simple rules for being respectful
Here are a few simple basics that demonstrate the courtesy and level of professionalism that should be afforded to those who put their property on the market. Whether it is vacant does not matter.
- Schedule showings as required by the listing brokerage. I include property inspections in my concept of managing showings.
- Arrive within the scheduled window, and sign in or leave a card so the owner will know you have been there.
- Do not share the access information, and do not come back without a new appointment.
- Leave the property as you found it.
- Promptly report any issues to the listing brokerage.
How you handle these simple tasks will help others form an opinion of you, which is especially important if your client wishes to make an offer.
Even if the client does not, you might need to interact with the listing brokerage at a later time. Our reputation is our brand, and what might take years to build up can be lost quickly.
Please respect private property and recognize that selling a property is often tough enough without adding to whatever the seller might be dealing with.