A REAL Code of Ethics...

Real Estate Agent with Century 21 Results Realty

The "quadrennial" ended a few days ago, and you know what thet means... tens of thousands of REALTOR® had to rush out and take the required Code of Ethics training to maintain their membership status.  I did too. 

But something occurs to me each time we play this game... 

The NAR Code of Ethics isn't a code of ethics at all...

Honestly, it is closer to license law that a code of ethics to practice our profession under.  

I'm not going to knock it for content.  I think most of the regulations and rules are fine for business.  But that is what our "code" really is... it is a rulebook.  

Here is a "Code of Ethics":

A Scout is -

There are no case studies.  There are no specifics.  It is a code to live by. 

There IS an expanded version that the boys study while learning the Boy Scout Law

Not to be left out, another great "Code of Ethics": 

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

The Girl Scout Oath is another wonderful example of ethics... not rules, but guidelines. 

That is where the NAR Code of Ethics falls down.  It is more like a legal code than a moral code.  It isn't inspirational or aspirational.  Instead, it's defensible or prosecutable.  Rather than being designed to remind us to do the right thing, it is a document that allows language to be parsed... 

The Girl Scouts say "I will do my best to be... responsible for what I do and say..."

The Boy Scouts say "A Scout is trustworthy..." 

The NAR says "The obligation of REALTORS® to preserve confidential information (as defined by state law) provided by their clients in the course of any agency relationship or non-agency relationship recognized by law continues after termination of agency relationships or any non-agency relationships recognized by law. REALTORS® shall not knowingly, during or following the termination of professional relationships with their clients:

  1. reveal confidential information of clients; or
  2. use confidential information of clients to the disadvantage of clients; or
  3. use confidential information of clients for the REALTOR'S® advantage or the advantage of third parties unless:
    1. clients consent after full disclosure; or
    2. REALTORS® are required by court order;
    3. or it is the intention of a client to commit a crime and the information is necessary to prevent the crime; or
    4. it is necessary to defend a REALTOR® or the REALTOR'S® employees or associates against an accusation of wrongful conduct.

Information concerning latent material defects is not considered confidential information under this Code of Ethics. (Adopted 1/93, Amended 1/01)"

Loopholes.  Legalese. 

Instead of sounding like the way we should aspire to do business, it sounds like something put together by a Congressional subcommittee. 

Obviously, being a Boy Scout isn't as complicated as being a REALTOR®.  There are a lot of considerations we have to work with... laws, contracts, etc. 


But a Code of Ethics is something that members should be able to memorize, not something that they should have to be retrained in every four years. 

What do YOU think?

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Liz Lockhart
Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO - Cape Girardeau, MO
GRI, Cape Girardeau Real Estate

You make some valid points. If we pride ourselves on ethical behavior, we should probably have at least have one or two sentence motto that says so in a simple and straightforward way.

Jan 06, 2013 12:01 PM #1
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

The Boy Scott motto: "Be Prepared" is also better than anything NAR has ever come up with.

Jan 07, 2013 11:31 PM #2
Wallace S. Gibson, CPM
Gibson Management Group, Ltd. - Charlottesville, VA

IMHO * it is a panacea for the public to make them FEEL GOOD about our profession.  They lost credibility when they started adding in property management duties WITHOUT actual knowledge of the specialty and tried to make the COE one-size-fits-all

Jan 10, 2013 10:36 PM #3
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Brilliant.  I am an Eagle Scout.  My kids are in Royal Rangers.  Realtors make in complex so we can find loop holes.

Feb 04, 2013 03:48 AM #4
William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional
Hi Lane, This an interesting take and it certainly does inspire thought. I think your analogy to a congressional subcommittee may have more truth than fiction despite the good intent that was inspired years ago.
Mar 18, 2013 03:33 PM #5
Ted Glover
Alderman Classic Realty, LLC - Moultrie, GA
ABR in Moultrie, Georgia 229-854-5422

Thanks Lane I did enjoy reading the whole message within the post. I agree that it should be something we could remember and live by and not just do it every 4 years.

Jul 12, 2014 12:19 PM #6
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

You can never govern morals and you either have them or you don't. Who are we fooling cause the public never sees it and Realtors never can quote it. It is something I suppose that seperates us from regular Real Estate agents 


Oct 16, 2015 12:25 PM #7
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