It's Not You; It's Me. Or Is it Both of Us?

 Cori Lamont  |    April 05, 2018

Seinfeld fans will recall when George Costanza once classically claimed, ‚ÄúYou're giving me the ‚ÄėIt's not you, it's me‚Äô routine? I invented ‚ÄėIt's not you, it's me.‚Äô Nobody tells me it‚Äôs them, not me. If it‚Äôs anybody, it‚Äôs me.‚ÄĚ

While the scene is comedic genius, it does raise an interesting question ‚ÄĒ do you ever think ‚Äúit‚Äôs you‚ÄĚ? I have heard from many in the industry it‚Äôs the other person who is unprofessional, unethical, unwillingly to compromise. Is it? If you take a closer look at your own behavior, do you see ways that you could improve your own behavior? Is it possible that both your behavior and the other agent‚Äôs behavior could improve?

Unprofessional vs. incompetent

It is important to first establish the difference between unprofessional and incompetent behavior. Unprofessional behavior is something the majority of us attempt to avoid. Unprofessional behavior does not bode well for a reputation for an individual or the entire REALTOR¬ģ profession. However, unprofessional behavior may not be a violation of the REALTOR¬ģ Code of Ethics or license law. Unprofessional behavior does not typically result in litigation.¬†

Incompetent behavior is very different. Incompetence occurs when someone is not capable to perform specific activities. For instance, a person who has never been involved in a real estate transaction involving a farm may not be competent to assist in the transaction unless that individual engages a licensee who is familiar with farm transactions. Incompetent behavior could result in a REALTOR¬ģ Code of Ethics violation, a license law violation and potentially litigation.¬†

Here are some brief examples of what may be unprofessional vs. incompetent behavior. 

  • Not returning another agent‚Äôs call? Unprofessional.¬†
  • Hanging up the phone on an agent? Unprofessional.
  • Not placing the earnest money into the trust account when required? Incompetent.¬†
  • Allowing a buyer access to property without permission? Incompetent.

Obviously, no licensee’s goal should be to behave unethically or incompetently. 

Is it you? 

Here are five tips for you to consider that relate to your own behavior as you ask yourself how you can improve your professionalism. 

1. How long does it take you to respond to another agent? 

A prompt response is a basic core component of any business when communicating to a consumer or to other professionals in the industry. I often hear that agents do not communicate with each other well. For instance, agents claim that calls, emails and texts from one agent to another go completely ignored. Considering all of the technology available to licensees, it’s pretty egregious to never respond to an agent on the other side of the transaction.

2. Do you respond in the manner requested by the other agent? 

I once learned that if someone invites you to an event by mail, you RSVP by mail unless told otherwise. Likewise if someone texts you an invite, you can text your RSVP back. This leads me to my next point. One of the major complaints I‚Äôve heard from agents lately is that ‚ÄúI call the other agent and ask the agent to call me, and the agent then texts me. When I ask the agent via text to call me, they text me back rather than calling.‚ÄĚ It‚Äôs frustrating, I am told. So my version of the ‚ÄúEmily Post of Real Estate Etiquette‚ÄĚ generally says respond to the communication in the method requested ‚ÄĒ not in the method that is easiest or most preferred for you.¬†

3. Even if you were frustrated, was your response appropriate? 

Real estate transactions should not be adversarial. Agents are not adversaries. You all have the same goal ‚ÄĒ assist the consumer to get to the closing.
I once had a manager tell me that her agent was being accosted by way of email, text and phone by another agent during a closing. And the manager told the agent, ‚Äújust remember we don‚Äôt know what‚Äôs going on in this person‚Äôs day. We can control our behavior, so let‚Äôs just take a deep breath and get through the closing.‚ÄĚ Good advice.

Everyone has a bad day, and while poor behavior and lack of professionalism should not be swept under the rug, a cautious reminder: We don’t know what’s happening in someone else’s world is an important one. Consider starting with contacting the agent’s manager to discuss the incident and concerns as to the combative nature of their agent. The WRA legal department determined the most important first step should be to contact the manager to discuss the state of the situation, the circumstances surrounding it, and any of the paths you and your company will be taking as a result. 

4. Could you have done something differently? 

Step back. Analyze your behavior. Could you have softened your tone, used different words, better expressed yourself? While you may not have ‚Äústarted it,‚ÄĚ was there a potential to shift the conversation to something less adversarial?¬†

5. Could someone have perceived your behavior as unprofessional? 

Sometimes an introspective look is difficult. However, it is imperative to constantly look at our own behavior. After a combative or adversarial situation occurred, seriously ask yourself if the other agent may have perceived your behavior as unprofessional. If the answer is yes, then use that negative experience as a learning opportunity. We should never stop trying to improve or grow.

Following the path 

As the statements goes, it takes years to build up trust and only seconds to destroy it. The Professional Conduct Working Group of the Professional Standards Committee of the National Association of REALTORS¬ģ (NAR) created a list, known as the Pathways to Professionalism that includes professional courtesy and etiquette not addressed in the REALTOR¬ģ Code of Ethics. See the complete Pathways to Professionalism in the gray box.

Pathways to Professionalism

I. Respect for the Public
  1. Follow the ‚ÄúGolden Rule‚ÄĚ: Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.
  2. Respond promptly to inquiries and requests for information.
  3. Schedule appointments and showings as far in advance as possible.
  4. Call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment or showing.
  5. If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the occupant.
  6. Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
  7. When entering a property ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
  8. Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules.
  9. Never criticize property in the presence of the occupant.
  10. Inform occupants that you are leaving after showings.
  11. When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock ‚ÄĒ and announce yourself loudly before entering. Knock and announce yourself loudly before entering any closed room.
  12. Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and drive a clean car.
  13. If occupants are home during showings, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.
  14. Encourage the clients of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
  15. Communicate clearly; don’t use jargon or slang that may not be readily understood.
  16. Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
  17. Show courtesy and respect to everyone.
  18. Be aware of ‚ÄĒ and meet ‚ÄĒ all deadlines.
  19. Promise only what you can deliver ‚ÄĒ and keep your promises.
  20. Identify your REALTOR¬ģ and your professional status in contacts with the public.
  21. Do not tell people what you think ‚ÄĒ tell them what you know.
II. Respect for Property
  1. Be responsible for everyone you allow to enter listed property.
  2. Never allow buyers to enter listed property unaccompanied.
  3. When showing property, keep all members of the group together.
  4. Never allow unaccompanied access to property without permission.
  5. Enter property only with permission even if you have a lockbox key or combination.
  6. When the occupant is absent, leave the property as you found it with lights, heating, cooling, drapes and more. If you think something is amiss, such as possible vandalism, contact the listing broker immediately.
  7. Be considerate of the seller’s property. Do not allow anyone to eat, drink, smoke, dispose of trash, use bathing or sleeping facilities, or bring pets. Leave the house as you found it unless instructed otherwise.
  8. Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside property.
  9. Respect sellers’ instructions about photographing or videographing their properties’ interiors or exteriors.
III. Respect for Peers
  1. Identify your REALTOR¬ģ and professional status in all contacts with other REALTORS¬ģ.
  2. Respond to other agents’ calls, faxes and e-mails promptly and courteously.
  3. Be aware that large electronic files with attachments or lengthy faxes may be a burden on recipients.
  4. Notify the listing broker if there appears to be inaccurate information on the listing.
  5. Share important information about a property, including the presence of pets, security systems, and whether sellers will be present during the showing.
  6. Show courtesy, trust and respect to other real estate professionals.
  7. Avoid the inappropriate use of endearments or other denigrating language.
  8. Do not prospect at other REALTORS¬ģ‚Äô open houses or similar events.
  9. Return keys promptly.
  10. Carefully replace keys in the lockbox after showings.
  11. To be successful in the business, mutual respect is essential.
  12. Real estate is a reputation business. What you do today may affect your reputation ‚ÄĒ and business ‚ÄĒ for years to come.
Cori Lamont is Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs for the WRA.
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