The Golden Rule of Real Estate – 100 Years and Stronger Than Ever

By Denise Schultz, Association Executive (December, 2013)

Do you know the difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent? I didn’t. That was, until I went to work for local office of the nation’s largest trade association, the National Association of REALTORS®, representing over one million members. Allow me to share what I’ve learned about this profession that serves “The American Dream” of home ownership.

A real estate agent is licensed by the state to represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions. Certain education and performance requirements must be met. A REALTOR® is a real estate agent who also swears to abide by a specific set of professional standards of practice that has been in place for 100 years. The REALTOR® Code of Ethics is known as a living document, which obviously requires occasional minor updates, but has been the “Golden Thread” by which REALTORS® do business since 1913. This Code is enforced by a local Board of REALTORS®  that represents the state board (i.e. Wisconsin REALTORS® Association or Illinois Board of REALTORS®) and the National Association of REALTORS®. The professional members of our associations adhere to policies and procedures enabling them to act as the “police, the “jury” and sometimes even “judge” in matters of professional conduct.

What does this mean to you, the consumer? That is probably best defined by the third and final component of the Code – that which addresses “duties to the public.” The language may be familiar as it is founded on the Golden Rule of “Whatsoever ye would that others should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Visionaries who developed this important guiding document 100 years ago realized that although the natural sections would address a broker’s “duties to his clients” and “duties to fellow brokers”, it must also include the addition of “duties to the public.” This third component happens to be that which carries the most severe consequences if violated. Public trust is the key to the integrity of the real estate profession and our local REALTORS® take this seriously.

How do the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice apply to the daily lives of real estate professionals? All REALTORS® promise to abide by this Code and are required to attend formal training on its contents minimally every four years. Board leaders and those presiding on committees and panels that enforce the Code are required to attend training more frequently, and many members voluntarily participate in training simply to stay informed. In addition to  providing the outline of how they will work with one another and their clients, REALTORS® are proud that the Code’s progressive approach to equal opportunity and fair housing actually surpass the federal government’s laws prohibiting discrimination against various protected classes. The Code is followed every day by REALTORS® and in the rare instances where there is a violation, consequences are enforced. Formal processes of Grievance, Mediation and Arbitration are handled at the local board office by professional peers. We here in the Lakes Area are pleased that most matters are successfully mediated through open and honest communication and professional courtesy.

The answer to what the 100 year REALTOR® Code of Ethics means to you, the consumer is actually confidence that when you see the REALTOR® logo, you know the professional you are choosing to do business with is sworn to the highest set of standards for his or her profession, guided by treating you as he or she would expect to be treated.  As the Preamble to the Code begins, “Under All is the Land …” and our local REALTORS® value what this means to home and land owners and dedicate their lives to helping others achieve what is often referred to as “The American Dream.”

NAR Code