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Thursday, 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:

 eth·ics

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.

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Tuesday, 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.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Trust Continuum

The Trust Continuum

Over the years I have watched real estate practitioners come and go.  Some have built amazing careers that seem to have no limit their growth, and others never find any type of appreciable trajectory. The difference between those that reach the pinnacles of success, and those who remain mired in dark valleys of defeat seems to be almost unappreciable.

The long term success of a REALTOR® in the business of real estate doesn’t appear to have anything to do with educational levels, physical attributes, ethnic background, or social class. I have seen many instances of agents with poor grooming, lack of social graces, even with speech or other physical impediments reach truly stellar levels of success, while others that seem complete on the surface are left behind. So, the question is; what is the magic powder, the key to success in real estate?

The one attribute that appears to weave itself into every successful agent I have ever encountered is the ability to instill trust. The ability to present oneself in a genuine and competent manner, a manner that says, “I am reliable, honest, and will protect your interests at all costs”. The aura of trustworthiness crosses boundaries of race, class, education, and even health. For those who have the trust continuum built into their character, a long term career in real estate is guaranteed.

So, if developing a trust continuum is so vital to a real estate career… what is it really?

The definition of trust in psychology is based on believing that the person who you trust will do what you expect. It starts at the family level and grows to others after the early years of development. The ability to place trust in others is a key element to a healthy socialization process.

 Trust is also integral to the idea of social influence. The fact of the matter is that it is easier to influence or persuade someone who has developed a sense of trust in you. The real powerhouse REALTORS® create that sense of trust in their clients. Perception of honesty, competence and common values are essential. Once trust is lost, however, it is very hard to regain.

 Being and acting trustworthy should be considered the only sure way to develop a trust continuum with your clients. Stephen Covey has a great way of describing trust. He calls it the emotional bank account. One puts in deposits of trust, or makes withdrawals, based on responses to perceived actions. Where trust is absent, projects can fail, especially if this lack of trust has not been identified and addressed. Individuals that are in relationships characterized by high levels of social trust are more apt to openly exchange information and to act with caring benevolence toward one another than those in relationships lacking trust.

A key element in developing a trust continuum with your clients is being reliable. Philosopher Annette Baier has made a distinction between trust and reliance by saying that trust can be betrayed, while reliance can only be disappointed. Nonetheless, being reliable is a powerful tool in building trust with a client, while the reverse can destroy trust and empty out the emotional bank account.

In the discipline of economics, trust is seen as an economic lubricant, reducing the cost of transactions, enabling new forms of cooperation and generally furthering business activities, employment and prosperity. This observation created a significant interest in considering trust as a form of social capital and has led to research into a closer understanding of the process of building trust. It’s been claimed that higher levels of social trust are connected to economic development. It is widely accepted and demonstrated by economists that social trust benefits the economy while a lower level of trust inhibits economic growth. Trusting less leads to the loss of economic opportunities, while on the other hand trusting more creates the risk of  unnecessary vulnerabilities and potential exploitation.

 It’s worth noting that when someone says, “trust me” most people won’t. Trust can’t be forced. Building trust is something that must be demonstrated in many little ways. The subtle clues like eye contact, and body language play an important initial impression of trust worthiness. Even something as simple as showing up on time for appointments helps to demonstrate to others that they can rely on you and hence create the building blocks of a trust relationship.

The life of a REALTOR® becomes much easier when you have won the trust of clients, and peers. The majority of the calls that a manager or broker will receive are based on agent to agent or agent to consumer mistrust. Gaining and retaining trust makes the job easier, and makes life less stressful. It’s clear that the one ingredient that makes the secret sauce for all top producers is the trust continuum.

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