October 18, 2012
The REALTOR CODE
The REALTOR® Code
In my role as a Managing Broker, it is not unusual to hear complaints from agents about other agents acting “unethically”. On occasion I have to deal with members of the public expressing concerns about one of our associates acting in a manner which was considered unethical in their eyes. These allegations tend to stem from the complainant imputing motives on the actions of the agent. They interpret what they have experienced as unethical when the results of a transaction, or negotiation do not conform with their expectations nor provide for their well-being. The insinuation is that the agent manipulated circumstances into their own interest, rather than the interest of the client or customer. What comes into play is the subjective nature of our understanding of the ethical boundaries of our business.
Ethical behavior is described in the Dictionary as follows:
1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.
2. the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.: medical ethics; Christian ethics.
3. moral principles, as of an individual: His ethics forbade betrayal of a confidence.
4. ( usually used with a singular verb ) that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions.
Ethics are, in a nutshell, the often unwritten, but internalized, rules of conduct that allow for the well-being of others. While many maintain that it is the religious imprint of our current or past affiliations of faith that give us a moral compass, there is a growing understanding that we all have an innate sense of fairness and communal responsibility. This inborn awareness of what is fair has even been demonstrated in studies with primates that associate in groups.
We all have slightly different points of reference when it comes to acting fairly. Although the “golden rule” is a universal axiom, we are also influenced in what our ethical boundaries are through our upbringing, (including where we are in birth order comparative to our siblings), our cultural background, and our religious influences. Due to these variants in one’s personal experience, it is important to set an objective guideline to overcome the elastic nature of moral and ethical boundaries. The statement that there is “honour among thieves”, suggests that even within groups that might be seen as lacking in moral fibre, a certain ethical standard is upheld. One might be tempted to respond to an accusation of unethical behavior with a question of which standard is being referred to!
CREA developed a code of ethics in 1913 for the real estate industry with the specific reason of ensuring that a standard of conduct be adhered to. They created 28 guiding principles help to determine when someone is acting unethically. This code has a higher standard than the existing legal requirements in many cases. The local real estate boards have taken these guiding principles and applied them to their professional standards doctrines. Boards also appoint professional standards committees to police the actions of agents based on the rules of conduct built around the code of ethics.
CREA describes the code this way:
CREA’s REALTOR® Code has been the measure of professionalism in organized real estate for over 40 years.
A REALTOR’s® ethical obligations are based on moral integrity, competent service to clients and customers, and dedication to the interest and welfare of the public.
The REALTOR® Code, by setting high standards of professional conduct for REALTORS®, helps to protect Canadians' rights and interests. It also creates a level of trust between REALTORS® and their clients.
There have been instances where a member of the public contacts me with a complaint, and it becomes evident that the designated agent they were dealing with did not instill a level of trust in their relationship with their client. As a result, as soon as something did not go as planned, the agent was seen as acting outside of the standards and values of the client. Even if nothing was done wrong in a technical sense, the client is left with a bad taste regarding their dealings with the agent.
When someone complains about unethical behavior to me, I will step back and picture the scenario from every angle possible. In most cases, after getting the details, it becomes clear that the agent was not acting unethically but rather, outside circumstances conspired to create that impression to someone that didn’t have the full details. As the saying goes, “There is always at least two sides to every story”. It is a rare occasion that I have found a REALTOR® acting intentionally against the well-being of others. It is for those occasions that the REALTOR® Code becomes a valuable tool in organized real estate.
Understanding the 28 articles in the CREA Code of Ethics is invaluable toward building a solid reputation as a REALTOR®. It is the ethical standard that sets us apart.
June 5, 2012
Gardening Tips for Home Owners
Spring and summer are when yards and gardens retake their rightful places at the center of attention. This month, Pillar To Post takes a look at several steps that homeowners can take to make their outdoor spaces and their home live compatibly.
Keep water away from the house
Be sure that the ground slopes away from the house all the way around the perimeter. This ensures that any moisture from rain and sprinkler systems will be directed away from the foundation.
The base of shrubs and other plantings should be kept at least 2' away from the foundation to avoid potential problems with roots and drainage. In addition, window wells should be kept free of debris and lined with gravel to help water drain out of the well and into the ground.
Do not leave sprinklers on for too long. Excessive water will not do plants and lawns any good, and may cause problems if there are drainage issues in certain areas.
The right plant in the right place
When a tree is growing very close to a structure, there can be potentially serious problems if the tree grows too tall or too wide for the space. Damage to eaves and roofs can be caused by overgrowth, and there is even a danger of branches or an entire tree falling onto the home. Existing trees should be professionally pruned to lessen the potential for hazard. When planting new trees, homeowners should research potential "candidates" to find how large the tree will eventually grow and make decisions accordingly.
Homeowners should also consider grouping plants that have similar water requirements to avoid overwatering plants that don't need as much. Not only will plants do better, but water bills will be lower over time as well.
Choose plants with maintenance in mind
Some plants end up requiring more maintenance than a homeowner expects. When selecting new planting material, homeowners should seek advice from qualified personnel at a local nursery who will know what plants will do well in their area, their growth habits and maintenance requirements.
Lawns should not be mowed too short or too frequently. Allowing the blades of grass to shade one another helps with water retention and allows grass to grow in more fully. Many newer turf grasses require less mowing than older varieties, and should be considered for new lawn installations. Homeowners can find out more at their local agricultural or extension office.
These are just some of the ways homeowners can increase the enjoyment of their outdoor spaces while ensuring that home and yard are in good shape.
November 5, 2010
How to be the BEST
RE/MAX is the number one Real Estate Franchise on the planet...that is an undisputed fact. However, the reason for the Franchise's greatness lies at the grassroots, in the quality of the REALTORS(r) its associate Brokerages have been able to attract. After watching these amazing professionals work their magic for several years, these are the traits that I have seen surface among the cream of the crop...
1. Create a positive attitude. Research shows that most failure in business stems from an attitude problem. A positive attitude looks for solutions to problems, and is not de-motivated by them.
2. Stay Motivated. The RE/MAX organization has seen this as a key element to building it's sales force around the world. The tools that are available to offer encouragement and motivation to our agents is unmatched. That is why year after year, the top agents in Canada are usually RE/MAX agents.
3. Have Integrity. Always tell the truth and maintain your ethical standards. Face up to mistakes right away and take immediate steps to correct them.
4. Be consistent. Know your strengths and weknesses and focus on tasks that you do well; delegate those tasks that you don't do well. Stay on track.
5. Expect Success. The top challenges in life are to manage your expectiations and to mange the unexpected...this will determine your results.
6.. Manage Relationships. Get to know people by taking a genuine interest in them. Allow your spontaneity to show others how to be positive and upbeat. The top agents are truly nice people!
7. Use Team Skills. A healthy team attitude begins with a solid commitment to help other team members win. You may see the agent, but you don't see the hundreds of support players behind him.
8. Have Vision. People are driven by visions of improvement...lead others to better solutions by offering a clearer vision. Have a clear vision and you will rise to the top. Focus turns light into a laser.
9. Follow up. Listen carefully to what people are asking. Repeat their needs back to them and explain how you will solve them.
10. Practice Self-Improvement. Always keep your temper in check, speak calmly and stay focused on learning. RE/MAX has a slogan that says, "The more you learn, the more you earn."
These are just brief lessons from the amazing agents at RE/MAX Select Properties. They are a guide book by example of how to be the best!
July 14, 2010
Growth without a Bubble
While none of us can truly predict the future, except that octopus in Germany that predicted the World Cup winners consistantly, there are certain indicators that we can look to in making forecasts for the real estate market.
Vancouver is in the unique position in Canada of having a limited supply of land available for development, while at the same time having an ever growing demand from international, and interprovincial immigration.
Post-Olympics Vancouver has seen an embarassment of riches in the tourism industry. June and July are showing that the high end hotels in Greater Vancouver are at phenominal occupancy rates. These types of high end hotels provide the city with high end tourists, many of which are willing and able to own secondary homes internationally. The exposure to all that the Vancouver life-style has to offer is a great advertising vehicle to this market. This same prospective buying group is also being enticed into the city via the new convention centre, which is bringing in industry groups from around the world for professional gatherings.
Household growth in Vancouver is predicted to be 32 thousand per year while housing starts lag behind at an estimated 14 - 16 thousand per year. This scarcity of demand will continue to drive the Vancouver market. There has been a market adjustment recently, but this only slows down the upward price pressure and doesn't remove it. Vancouver is not in a bubble. The price growth will still be a healthy 8 to 9 % year to year increase.
The cost of construction in Vancouver is higher than in other Canadian markets. This is due partly to the demands of the terrain in the Greater Vancouver area. Issues related to earthquake proofing the buildings, soil density, bedrock, and elevation all play a part in making construction in Vancouver a costly venture. Added to the mix is the hard cost of land in Vancouver. Between the physical limitations, there are also economic restrictions and political restrictions that limit the supply of usable land for development.
The city of Surrey is poised to become the largest city in the Greater Vancouver area within the decade. Richmond, and the Tri-Cities are also growing quickly as mass transportation in and out of Vancouver improves.
The biggest challenge, and one of the most important moving forward, is the supply of affordable rental units in Greater Vancouver. The influence of foreign investors is very important in the development of a sustainable rental property supply. It is estimated that 32% of Vancouver residents are renters, and that number will increase as the need to replace the Baby Boomer workers builds over the next decade.
What all of this means to the real estate market is that the Vancouver area has all of the fundamentals to continue to grow over the foreseeable future. Certainly there will be bumps in the trajectory, but the lack of supply, coupled with the growing demand will continue to push prices and development.
June 2, 2010
The power of consumer confidence is often addressed in economic forecasts by the various charter banks and government agencies. For many the impact is not appreciated or realized...but make no mistake it is a powerful mass dynamic.
In their book, SWITCH
, the Heath Brothers talk about the impact of "peer perspective" rather than "peer pressure". It seems that people will respond to any given dynamic based on what others around them are doing. In research it has been observed that an individual in a room with smoke coming through the vents will respond differently than one sitting with others in a room with smoke coming through the vents. The individual will immediately leave to look for assistance, while those sitting together will wait and see what the others do. That same response is often seen in an audience watching a film, or play. People will laugh or applaud based in part on what they see their peers doing.
Recently I succumbed to the power of peer perspective when a young paperboy came to my door. I didn't have any intention of signing up for paper delivery until he casually mentioned that "all of your neighbours are chosing the pre-payment plan via cheque". Before I realized what I was doing, I had my cheque book out.
Consumer confidence has the same power as peer perspective but on a larger scale. Mass media has used their influence in steering consumers. This was displayed recently in Canada when, despite the fact that we were not directly part of the American mortgage meltdown, the housing market dropped for a number of months. It was only after restoring the confidence of the consumer that the market came back in any signicant way.
The Bank of Canada
recently signalled an upward move in the prime lending rate...and the Bank of Montreal
responded by lowering their 5 yr mortgage rate. Both acting in different directions in an attempt to address the consumer in Canada. Like it or not, we work as a group...and part of our actions and responses are due to peer perspective. People see, people do...
May 12, 2010
The Power of the Third Party Endorsement
I have come to the conclusion that people just like the words, Twitter, and Tweet. Even those who have no idea about the social media revolution taking place know about Twitter. The name recognition aside, this cute little bird is actually leading the pack in the power of third party endorsements as the new way to navigate through choices and options.
Let's face it, if you want to hire a plumber you can look through the yellow pages and pick out the one that has the best ad, or you can google to find the best website. The third option is to ask your social media network group about their experiences in finding a good plumber. Which has the most power? For most people the endorsment from a third party will carry the greatest weight in making a choice like finding a good plumber, or finding a great real estate agent in a given neighbourhood.
Some pundants are annoucing the death of the search engine and the corporate website in their enthusiasm to embrace the power of social media like facebook and twitter. While it is a bit like those who predicted the death of radio when TV came in, there is no disputing that the internet landscape has forever changed with the growing interactivity available via social media tools.
Within the real estate industry the changes are coming fast and furious. Today it is necessary for an agent to be well versed enough in social media to have a facebook page and a youtube account to keep in contact with their clients and contacts. Many are engaged in blogging, sharing photos, and posting tweets in an effort to remain visible and available for their clients, Our website allows links to the agents individual websites, as well as links to twitter, linkedin, and facebook.
Passive use of the internet is becoming passionate use of the internet. This trend will help the cream rise to the top as people search out advise, experience, and opinions from their third party network friends.
May 4, 2010
The View from the Roller Coaster
I recently watched an interesting visualization of the median house price index for Greater Vancouver over the last 40 years. The animation places the viewer in the seat of a roller coaster as it climbs and drops relative to the housing market. Apart from being very entertaining to watch, it also clearly demonstrates how quickly the environment can change in the Greater Vancouver housing market.
Following market trends is only accurate in the past tense. One cannot truly understand the direction the market will take until the change is in motion. Presently in Vancouver there seems to be a shift occurring. Reviewing the MLS statistics, and the RE/MAX numbers it appears that the listing inventory is rising faster than the housing demand. Listings are up, but sales seem to be slowing down. This is happening despite the fact that the charter banks have warned that they will be raising their interest rates by summer.
The fear that house prices have risen beyond what the market will bear may be slowing down the buying frenzy of the last few years. The price of a condo in Vancouver is reaching the unaffordability level for the average citizen. The price of properties in this wonderful city have reached a level more than ten times the average wage of a Vancouverite. Those who caught the roller coaster at the bottom of the climb have done very well over the last 7 years in this market.
Once the HST effect has flowed through the local economy, the question of affordability will come into a clearer focus. Vancouver has always been higher priced than its neigbouring provinces because of it's desirability as a location. The recent olympics have proven to be a magnet for some international tech companies as well as those well-heeled enough to own properties internationally.
The desire to own property on Canada's west coast might be slamming against the reality that those without a seat on the roller coaster could be in for a long wait to buy a ticket.
April 5, 2010
Einsteins Last Words
Albert Einstein died in 1955, having seen his concepts create a new world of understanding during his life. His passing was at a time when the cold war between the Soviets and the Americans was at a point of escalating. Much of the worry of that year, and the decades that followed were with the growing number of nuclear weapons that both super powers were amassing. The creation of the weapon that could effectively wipe out much of life on our planet was due in part to the theories that Einstein had developed.
Albert Einstein was not only a radical thinker, but he also was an amazingly creative communicator. Although his ideas are beyond the understanding of most of us, he was able to demonstrate his ideas using common speak. His description of the speed of light was done by referencing a moving train, while his explanation of gravity and time was done by the mental picture of an elevator.
The context of communication is so very critical. When looking at something as simple as market trend data in Vancouver, the numbers can be skewed to reflect the researcher's bias, or to amplify opposing opinions. Our age is quickly moving forward in the means that we communicate ideas and opinions. Today Twitter is evolving weekly to address the quick fix communication needs of social media. To some the world view has transformed into a series of games...spurred on by a generation that has grown up with video games and virtual reality. Looking for a home in Kerrisdale becomes an extention of gaming and social media in method and mindset.
The language of the landscape is changing, and as Einstein once said, "We can't solve problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them". The notion of communicating value and service is becoming increasingly difficult in a culture and marketplace where information can be accessed quickly and effectively. The answer to meeting the communication demands in the real estate marketplace is not to continue to use the same thinking of even two years ago. REALTORS(r) must find new ways to communicate service and value to the new consumer.
The context of the information is important, and although information is freely and readily available, it must be interpreted properly and effectively in order to best serve the constituents. As Albert observed, "Sometimes one pays the most for the things one gets for nothing."
The hidden costs are often greater than the sticker price. This is why having effective communication is so critical. Understanding the information is more important than having access to the information,
Nothing reflects the need to communicate properly in the right context than Albert Einstein's last words. Before he passed away, he felt the need to share some final thoughts. The only person in the room was the attending nurse. She heard the final words of the greatest thinker in history. Unfortunately, he spoke them in German, a language the nurse did not understand.
March 25, 2010
The Real Story Between CREA and the Competition Bureau
For some inexplicable reason, the Competition Bureau has been on a witch hunt against the Canadian Real Estate Association for some time now. It may be that someone thought that this highly effective and progressive industry was an easy target. Certainly with the right spin, and with the media on side, it is easy to create an unsympathetic picture based on old charicatures of REALTORS(r).
It is unfortunate that they are attacking one of the truest free market sectors in the Canadian economy. The Real Estate Industry is one of the most competitive industries in North America. Each Brokerage competes aggressively with it's rivals because remuneration is based on performance. Even within an office, the agents compete against each other for Listings and Buyers. Despite this, the Competition Bureau is smearing CREA and it's almost 100,000 members. The media has been allowed to create untrue pictures of what the issues are surrounding the Competition Bureau's concerns.
Meanwhile, the Bureau does not acknowledge the important changes that CREA has made to address those concerns. Changes that the Bureau itself had recommended.