One of the most important aspects of our culture is the power of choice. We can choose any religion, express our own thoughts, choose from a multitude of occupations, and essentially how we want to live our lives.
There have always been and will always be discussions about ethics. Not just in real estate but in any occupation. Ethics for me boils down to just one thing: choice. Did I do something as a professional that took the power of choice away from my client? If my answer is yes, then I acted unethically.
The following scenarios showcase what I mean.
Scenario 1: You are searching for homes for a potential
buyer client. You do not have a buyer agency agreement (shame on you, but
that’s another blog). You look it up on the MLS only to find they are offering a $1 buyer agent commission. What do you do?
The unethical agent would say, I can’t work a deal for $1, so I won’t show it to my clients. I don’t work for free.
The ethical agent would say, I can’t work a deal for $1. I will talk with my
client about buyer agent compensation and see if they want to pay the
difference. Then I will know if they want me to search for homes that they
will be required to pay me for. I’ll let them decide.
Scenario 2: You have shown your clients 40 homes and they finally found one they
like. It has everything they want, but the yard is a little small. You plan to
meet them later to write the contract. As you are in your office writing up the
contract, you get an email from an agent with a new listing. It is what your
client is looking for and it has the larger yard.
The unethical agents says: I’m tired of showing them homes. They found one they like, and we are writing up the contract. No point in stirring the pot now.
The ethical agent says: I’m tired of showing them homes. I will write up the contract. On my way over to their house, I will preview the new listing and then let them know about it, in case they want to go and see it. I will let them decide if they want to continue to submit this offer, or take the time to see the new listing.
Scenario 3: You have an out of town investor that is looking at
buying duplexes here locally. They ask you to go and look at many for them, as
they are going to buy sight unseen. They find one they like on the MLS and you
go to look at it. It is really nice and new construction, so really it has very
little maintenance costs for the investor. It looks great on the MLS. As you go
to visit it, you can see that it is located kitty corner from an industrial
warehouse in an area of town nicknamed “felony flats.” The area is on the
upswing with investors coming in and doing flips.
The unethical agent says: Business is slow. I need this sale. It looks great on the MLS. It will appreciate in value. Investors are doing a lot of flips in this areas. It will
work out for the investor.
The ethical agents says: Business is slow. I need
this sale. It looks great on the MLS, but I need to let my client know about the
location. The area is on the upswing, but the industrial warehouse may impact
the value. I’ll take some photos and email them out. I’ll let the investor
decide if they want to buy it knowing about the warehouse right there.
I see agents act unethically in our profession, not because they have poor morals or are “bad” people (okay I concede that there are a few of those out there), but because they don’t appreciate the power of choice. Removing the power of choice from the consumer makes them feel vulnerable, and it puts agents in the position of being responsible for their clients’ choices.
What I often see are agents that are so worried about liability and litigation that they say nothing, nada, zip. Too worried about being sued for misrepresentation, they choose to say nothing. I believe that most real estate lawsuits come about due to clients feeling like the agents took their power of choice from them. Whether true or not, is a matter for the courts.
I am a firm believer that I can advise my clients that shooting themselves in the foot would really, really hurt and is not a good idea. If they want to pick up the gun and pull the trigger…well at least it was their choice.
If you are thinking about relocating to Salem-Keizer Metro area and need more information about what our city is like, please call or email me for more information. If you are considering a purchase or sale of a home, I’d like to discuss your real estate needs with you.