Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Golden Rule and Realtor Ethics

I just completed a 3 hour continuing education (CE) class on Ethics. Realtors are required to acquire 14 hours of CE with every license renewal, approximately every 2 years. National Association of Realtors (NAR) requires that every 4 years Realtors must have 3 hours of Ethics training.

Why this emphasis? I suppose that the most common thread running through the practice of selling Real Estate is distrust. Distrust amongst the folks who practice and certainly amongst the consuming public. I remember as a small child when a family member would make a far reaching comment on something requiring trust, the comment fired back would be something like,
" Right, next you will want to sell me some swampland in Florida." This distrust runs beyond the spirit of Caveat Emptor, Buyer Beware. We are all naturally on edge in buying. The bigger the purchase the keener the edginess. In Real Estate, dating back to when Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden, because of their dealings with the snake, the distrust of Realtors has been a prominent reality.

I have now been in this business going on 6 years through numerous transactions. I am more aware of the necessity of being on edge, now more than ever. Trust me. There are numerous snakes still active in the garden of home ownership. This stretches to all involved, unfortunately, including the Buyer and the Seller. You need to be on your toes. You need to tread carefully.

I took a canoe trip through the Okefenokee swamp once. Did I go alone? Absolutely not ! I went on a guided trip. I did not know the guide, but I assumed that someone would get him if I ended up like Amos Moses, alligator bait. All ended well. You need a guide in the business of acquiring real estate, especially if you are inexperienced. Even if you have experience buying in Milwaukee, you do not have experience in buying in Tallahassee. Real estate is a regional business. What goes on across state lines does not have uniformity everywhere. If you are a buyer it costs you nothing to employ a Realtor. Get a good one. Someone you know personally or a referral from a friend that you have high confidence in.

The instructor in my class was a Broker from a competing firm. I have done business with that firm. Just like me, they bear watching and holding to standards of performance. We all make little mistakes. Then there are those who want to throw you under the bus to profit from your sacrifice. You need to have your advocate, guide and friend with you along the way, no matter who you are dealing with.

This instructor started the class by searching for a definition of "ethics". Someone offered the Golden Rule as definition. I attended Vacation Bible School at the Hillsdale Presbyterian Church, in West ( By Goodness ) Virginia in the summer of 1955. I was 9 and the thing I had on my mind mostly was the softball game and the ice cream. Yet I do recall the dissertation on the Golden Rule. " Do unto others as you would have done unto you." Zowie ! What a concept ! I pretty much lived my life from then on assuming that all others were practicing the same precept. I had a few bumps along the way and I remember getting beaten out for various things and then finding out afterwards that I had been "had". Not all God's creatures are dealing from the top. Many are dealing from the bottom. Many are quite comfortable living in the bottom land of reptiles and sliminess.

That was made crsytal clear to me during the segment of my life that involved lobbying legislatures in various states. I represented a Fortune 500 company with deep pockets. I remember running across another definition of the Golden Rule. It was simply. " He who has the gold...........................RULES !" What a concept ! As we seek truth and sanity through the upcoming election we will see a vivid representation of this aspect of the Golden Rule. The emerging victor for whatever office will most likely be the victor because of huge amounts of money to convince the public that he/she is the best candidate. Such is the case in the world of real estate.

Reputations are mostly earned but many are bought through the reality of money spent on advertising. Choose carefully. There are 1.2 million members of the National Association of Realtors. Let's do some simple math. There are 300 million Americans. Let's say they live in families of 4. That gives us 75 million households. Not all people own homes. Let's say that 50% do and 50% do not. Half of 75 million is 37.5 million. Now, if there are 1.2 million Realtors, then we can assume, roughly, that there is one realtor for every 38 households. It is not that hard to get a license. It is a little harder to keep a license. We had a gentleman here in Tallahassee who sold jewelry. His name was Lester Moon. He always ended his commercials with the statement
" If you do not know jewelry, then know your jeweler." To the same point if you do not know real estate then make an attempt to know your Realtor. Get a referral from a friend. Make calls to former clients. You know the drill. Everyone is not grinding the pencil of the Golden Rule from the same end.

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