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What Are Ethics?

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Toby Boyce

Toby Boyce

By Toby Boyce

According to Dictionary.com, one definition is that ethics are “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc.”

As members of the National Association of REALTORS®, practitioners agree to abide by the Code of Ethics as established by the organization, and are bound by state and federal statutes that keep the business from descending into chaos.

But who is minding the gates when it comes to enforcing ethics? Local boards are often overworked and understaffed and the smaller boards are “offices of one” that are struggling just to keep the place running. NAR has too many practitioners (1.2 million members) to even consider this type of monitoring throughout the program. Ultimately, REALTORS® have to self-regulate our own industry. The practitioners are the ones in the fire every day.

However, are we doing anything with this?

When there have been situations that have come up where the ethics were questionable, I’ve found other agents to be as willing to report it as a snitch in the mob. I’ve heard all these excuses when there have been ethical situations.

  • “Is it really giving them an advantage?”
  • “I don’t want to be seen as a tattle-tale.”
  • “I might have a deal with her in the future.”
  • “Can you do it anonymously?”
  • “He’s an agent in my company.”
  • “It isn’t that bad.”
  • “Don’t be ‘one of those people’ who reports things.”

Seriously, REALTORS® want to know why they aren’t better respected by the general public — and they won’t even enforce their own Code of Ethics. We can talk about raising the bar in real estate all we want. However, until we are ready to step up self-monitoring and self-regulation, it will always remain just that… talk.

Think about it this way: If you had a teacher who gave homework every single day, but never checked it, wouldn’t you eventually become lax in completing your homework? The pain associated with committing the offense becomes so low that not doing your homework — or “the right thing” — is no longer viewed as a negative thing. And the industry that puts the food on our tables is dragged further down in the public’s eye.

I’m tired of it. That’s right. I’m going to be one of “those guys.”

And you know what I hope a lot of you join me — for the sake of our industry.

Toby Boyce, MBA, is a real estate practitioner with Keller Williams Consultants Realty in Westerville, Ohio. Visit his Web site: www.delawareohrealestate.com.

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Comments 3

  1. Toby,

    I share your frustration. I have experienced it, lived it, and I swear to you I have a t-shirt here somewhere.

    [golf clap] You are taking a great stance for our industry and I want you to know I am right next to you in this effort.

    At Professional One, we have recently rolled out a new initiative for our company. Professionalism is not just defined by upholding the ethical standards of our industry, though that is a HUGE part of being a professional. We believe there are additional bars that need to be cleared in becoming one of our agents.

    Check out the standards we have set for an agent to become a Professional One agent:


  2. Toby:
    Individual practitioners don’t enforce the COE – Associations do that through due process, however you do make a great point – that we are the watchdogs of our own industry, and if we tolerate bad behavior on the part of others because it might impact our popularity with our peers, we do everyone a disservice –

  3. I love the “Code Of Ethics”. I am the one who makes sure that daily business is being run according to it.

    “Code Of Ethics” keeps me on my toes.

    Before I can be honest with the public, first I have to be honest with myself.
    After all: every day I have to look at my self in the mirror and I have to like what I see.

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