Realtor® Code of Ethics vs. Facebook TOS

Real Estate Agent with Fathom Realty West Sound WA State 52404

What do the Realtor® Code of Ethics and the Facebook Terms of Service have in common?

  People agree to them both, but they very rarely read either one.


Let's face it, how many times have you signed up for something, especially here online, and quickly scrolled through the lengthy "Terms of Agreement," and simply checked the box at the end?

We are all guilty of this! We have better things to do, bigger fish to fry. We can't be bothered by such trivial matters!....

I wonder, do we view the Realtor® Code of Ethics in the same light?

When we first got licensed, did we simply check a box, stating that we agree to the Realtor® Code of Ethics, and promise to abide by it's aspirational ideals, and then move on to more important, pressing issues?

Though we are required to satisfy on-going Code of Ethics training requirements, do we view them as annoying, necessary evils to keep our license active?

How many licensed real estate professionals have ever taken the time to actually read through the Preamble and the entire Realtor® Code of Ethics?

I guess it's easier just to check the box....

We operate under the assumption that we know the Realtor® Code of Ethics, but we don't. We know of them, but we don't understand them, or how they apply in practical, everyday practice.

Is it any wonder why our industry has such a dismal reputation?

People think they understand the Facebook Terms of Service. But then, we see stuff like this:

"As of September 28th 11:30 am Eastern standard time, I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, or posts, both past and future. By this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates. DO NOT SHARE. You MUST copy and paste."

I recently started a series of blog articles on the Realtor® Code of Ethics, hoping that it might help stimulate a renewed interest and commitment to their ideals. But maybe they're just not sexy enough?

The Realtor® Code of Ethics Re-Loaded

The Preamble and The Godlen Rule

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Rich Jacobson is a District Director for Fathom Realty and a licensed REALTOR®; an avid Crab Hunter, Clam Digger, and Oyster Shucker, He is the Social Media Evangelist for Life on the Kitsap Peninsula & The Western Puget Sound in scenic WA State.


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Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F

I am glad that NAR is changing the ethics classroom requirement from once every 4 years to once every 2 years. Realtors need to be reminded what good behavior is expected of them.

Nov 29, 2015 02:30 AM #25
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Rich, it's not sexy unless you get snagged by inadvertent (or deliberate) bad behavior.  I have three licenses - DC, Maryland and Virginia.  I have had to endure some of the most boring classroom time to fulfill the ethics requirements of each jurisdiction. 

Recently, my broker had two of our agents who serve on the Greivance Committee give a class for our agents, going through the entrie Code, and then all of the stuff we don't read concerning electric lock box use, branding, and other local issues that are getting people thrown into real estate jail.  Our guys made it interesting.

Nov 29, 2015 07:33 AM #26
Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert
Zion Realty - Gilbert, AZ
Broker/Owner of Zion Realty

Oh I'm very familiar with the Code of Ethics. As a broker I constantly go over this with my agents. 

Nov 29, 2015 08:46 AM #27
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Rich Jacobson you are so right - we rarely read any TOS, including one for Facebook.

However and fortunately, go over COE every 4 years (mandatory).


Nov 29, 2015 09:35 AM #28
Ken Rury
eXp Realty - Poulsbo, WA

I studied this before I decided to become an agent and again afterwards. Even if you follow the golden rule, it's best to return frequently to make sure you understand how that applies to real estate.

Nov 29, 2015 10:16 AM #29
Virtual Realty Consultants
Virtual Realty Consultants LLC - Wellesley, MA
Making the American Dream a Reality

Our industry is comprised of licensees who come from all walks of life and what is "ethical" to them may or may not jibe with the NAR Code of Ethics, so this always creates a rub in my neck of the woods. But we also have issues with non-REALTORS who have no COE, and (especially in the world of rentals) really give all real estate agents a black eye.

Nov 29, 2015 10:57 AM #30
Jim Joeriman
Coldwell Banker Riviera Realty, Inc - Lacey Township, NJ
Helping Agents Reach New Heights

Speaking of Our Code...  If "WE" do not demand that our colleagues uphold the Code and hold them accountable to do so, then the culture changes and the Code becomes just a piece of paper.  Little enforcement little compliance.


Nov 29, 2015 08:25 PM #32
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Bylaws, terms of agreement fine print, sure, everyone reads, scans back and forth like a typewriter. It starts and ends with your own conduct and making most of the over the top Rotary like four way test or WWJD private. No grand standing self righteous works best. Goes back to the way you were raised. I think most in our industry serve their communities, the buyers and sellers they list and sell very well. The public perception of our industry is not helped with forward facing...

"Is it any wonder why our industry has such a dismal reputation?"


Nov 29, 2015 09:15 PM #33
Rich Jacobson
Fathom Realty West Sound - Poulsbo, WA
Your Kitsap County WA Real Estate Broker

Thanks everyone for taking time to read my post and add to the conversation.

Obviously, its difficult to legislate/impose morality, whether through legal means, or even by a document such as the Realtor Code of Ethics. But the Golden Rule, Preamble, and COE do offer us valuable guidelines to help shape our underlying motivations, and how we conduct ourselves.

Fortunately, NAR has taken steps recently to make enforcement easier and more meaningful. It doesn't do any good to have the COE if violators aren't held accountable to them.

Nov 30, 2015 01:40 AM #34
John Wiley
Right Move Real Estate Group- EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

I am proud that my Association puts so much focus on Code Of Ethics. I try to work at a higher level and encourage others to do likewise. We all benefit when we follow the Code.

Nov 30, 2015 07:03 AM #35
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

That's true, they're not sexy enough & not packed with enough action. We have to take CE on them every 2 years for IL & every year for my board & still peope don't understand them.

It's just like any law subject 'to interpretation'.

Nov 30, 2015 07:03 AM #36
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

While the COE has many fine points, I've always objected to the fact that it protects agents who are doing wrong by their clients. You as agents are prohibited from telling a seller that "their agent" is actually telling buyers things like "I know they'll take less." It also protects those agents who write "rejected" on an offer without every letting the seller know it exists. You might know it happened, but you can't tell the seller because the COE prohibits it. 

Meanwhile, reading it and understanding it doesn't make a dishonest person honest. 

Nov 30, 2015 08:04 AM #37
Karen Fiddler, Broker/Owner
Karen Parsons-Fiddler, Broker 949-510-2395 - Mission Viejo, CA
Orange County & Lake Arrowhead, CA (949)510-2395

I think Ethic violations is a term thrown around when too easily. But it's important to know what is and is not a problem. 

Nov 30, 2015 09:02 AM #38
Rich Jacobson
Fathom Realty West Sound - Poulsbo, WA
Your Kitsap County WA Real Estate Broker

Marte Cliff - not sure what you mean by the COE protects agents who are doing something wrong, against the best interests of their clients. Care to expand on that?

Dec 01, 2015 05:30 AM #41
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Sure Rich - the COE says you cannot interfere in an agency relationship. That means that if a listing agent is pulling dirty tricks behind their client's back, you cannot tell the client. 

Yes, you can turn them into the ethics board and go through hours and days of forms, meetings, etc. - but that does the client no good. And sure, if the violation was severe enough, that agent might be fined, sent back to school, or even lose their license. That still did the client no good at the moment when they were being taken advantage of. 

In 19 years as an agent and a broker I saw a lot of dirty tricks played - and it bothered me that any agent who alerted the client would be the one who was in trouble for violating the COE. 

Dec 01, 2015 06:15 AM #42
Rich Jacobson
Fathom Realty West Sound - Poulsbo, WA
Your Kitsap County WA Real Estate Broker

Marte Cliff - I don't think that is what is meant by not interferring with an established agency relationship. If a client has an agency relationship established (a written, signed contract) with a client, as a licensed agent/broker, I cannot solicit their business. If I feel that another agent/broker is in violation of the COE, you bet I have the right to file a complaint/grievance against them. But you're right that I can't go directly to their client and tell them what a lousy, corrupt agent/broker they have. Fortunately, the process for filing complaints and grievances has been streamlined and improved greatly here in the recent past. 

Dec 01, 2015 08:19 AM #43
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Yes, you can file a complaint, but how does that help the client. Will someone from the board go and tell them - and perhaps allow them to get out of the relationship without hiring an attorney? 

Dec 01, 2015 08:30 AM #44
Ron Aguilar
Continental Mortgage - Saint George, UT
Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995

Since we hate to read the fine print, we now know why we had so many people sign a Mortgage with bad terms in the past...

Dec 01, 2015 10:30 PM #45
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Rich,

We go over the Code of Ethics in continuing education periodically. Guilty of not reading the one for Facebook, but rarely have time to get on it anyhow.

Dec 02, 2015 08:06 AM #46
Deleted Account
Fort Myers, FL

I have read the Code of Ethics and stay on top of any changes.  My office reminds us of some of the things that others are violating, so we can stay on top of our game.  I read it, as they can be strict on some things and glad they are.  As far as social media, I am probably as guilty as the next person when it comes to the Terms of Service. 

As far as that bogus post on Facebook goes, people are so gullible to believe it, as Facebook changes policies from time to time.  However, they can't legally change a privacy policy without letting us know in advance and agreeing to it.

Dec 03, 2015 07:21 AM #47
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