Every Real Estate Broker can’t call themselves a Realtor®. Realtor® is a trademarked word for a real estate professional that belongs to the National Association of Realtors® or NAR for short. Members of this Association are bound by a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. The Code was first approved in 1913 to set standards for the professional and ethical practice of real estate by it’s’ members. The 17 Articles that make up the Code of Ethics establish a standard of conduct that serves to protect the interests of clients and customers as well as other Realtors®. Failure to abide by this standard can result in disciplinary action.
The Code is updated as needed and was just amended in January of this year. The 17 Articles that make up the Code of Ethics also contain Standards of Practice which help clarify the intent of the Articles in day to day practice. A Realtor® agrees to be bound by the Code of Ethics and is therefore held to a higher standard than a Real Estate Practitioner that is not a Realtor®. The Code of Ethics is intended to promote moral and ethical practice among its members, promote competent service to clients and customers and to uphold the public’s best interest and welfare. Realtors® are licensed in the state where they do business and must take continuing education in order to renew their license. In Illinois, our licenses are renewed every 2 years and a 2 ½ hour course on the Code of Ethics is required every time we renew.
Each Article in the Code is a rule that governs a Realtor’s duties and obligations while conducting his or her business. I will highlight some of these standards that govern our business in this column but if you would like to read the Code of Ethics in its’ entirety, you can find it at: https://www.nar.realtor/about-nar/governing-documents/code-of-ethics/2019-code-of-ethics-standards-of-practice.
Realtors® have an obligation to protect and promote the best interests of their clients and must treat all parties honestly. A Realtor® may not deliberately mislead an owner as to the market value of their property to try and get a listing. Realtors® must also keep their clients confidential information confidential,
Realtors cannot deliberately conceal defects or adverse factors relating to a property and Realtors® must cooperate with each other when it is in the client’s best interest to do so.
A Realtor® must disclose the existence of accepted offers to other brokers when attempting to show or write an offer on a property and they must not misrepresent the availability of access to the property for showings when a request has been made for a showing. Realtors® are held accountable for a client’s property such as keys to the property or earnest money checks that they have been entrusted with and must not comingle a client’s funds with their own.
Additionally, a Realtor® must uphold all federal, state and local Fair Housing Laws and shall not discriminate against any person in their practice of real estate. Realtors® must also present a true picture of the property in all advertising including Social Media. It is against the Code of Ethics to misrepresent a property through words or photographs that do not present a true picture of the property. Manipulating photos of a property which conceal a defect or exaggerate the features or condition of the property is a violation. I’m sure you have seen photos of a listing on the internet and when you viewed the property in person it didn’t seem like the same house. This could be an example of a violation of the Code depending on the severity of the exaggeration or concealment.
Realtors® are not allowed to practice law, we can only practice real estate and that is why we encourage you to retain an attorney when you are buying or selling property. We cannot advise you on any legal matters that may occur during the transaction and an attorney will be a worthwhile investment in your peace of mind.
Realtors® are also governed in their conduct with other Realtors®. It is a violation to knowingly make false or misleading statements about other Realtors®, their businesses or their business practices. If you hear a Realtor® disparaging a fellow Realtor® they are not abiding by their commitment to uphold the Code and could be disciplined. We should be following the Golden Rule and treat others the way we would want to be treated. It is far more important to discuss what we can do right rather than what the others are doing wrong. I would hope that if you come across a Realtor® that exhibits this kind of behavior you would chose to not obtain
their services and would report them to their Broker. We certainly do not want to allow the kind of behavior which reflects badly on our profession.
Realtors® are held to a higher standard of integrity and professionalism because we agree to be bound by the Code of Ethics through our membership in the National Association of Realtors. Make sure your next Real Estate Broker is a Realtor® to insure you have the best possible representation in your real estate transaction.