A Message from the President with Mike Theo: Raising the Bar

 Mike Theo  |    December 04, 2014

Nearly everywhere I travel, for as long as I can remember, I hear REALTORS® discussing the issue of professionalism. Usually it’s in the context of how we need to improve professionalism among our ranks, to better serve and protect consumers and ourselves. The 2014 reader survey about this magazine ranked ethics and the decline of professional standards as the number one industry issue. Our members want us to spend more time in the magazine discussing how bad agents hurt the profession. This doesn’t surprise me really. The REALTOR® organization was founded in part on the premise that our industry needed to become more organized and professional. From the very beginning, our organization was focused on ethics, and in 1913, the REALTOR® Code of Ethics was adopted. In many respects, the adoption of the Code of Ethics was revolutionary because at the time, no other profession outside of medicine, engineering and law had such a code and the means to enforce it. But more importantly, our founders adopted the Code of Ethics voluntarily. No government agency or court forced them to act.

So, while our ongoing pursuit of improving professionalism doesn’t surprise me, what does surprise me is the lack of concrete, actionable steps to achieve the kind of professionalism upgrade nearly everyone seems to want.
… Until now.

At the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) convention in New Orleans in November 2014, the NAR board of directors voted that every REALTOR® must now subscribe not only to the Code of Ethics, but also to a new aspirational Code of Excellence. The goal of the Code of Excellence is intended to raise the bar of professionalism through additional training in competencies that consumers value. While the exact details of this new code will be drafted and presented to the directors in May, the new competencies will include the following: 

  • Take steps to secure and ensure the privacy of consumers’ personal information.
  • Provide the public with the best, most accurate property data.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in business and technology tools to better serve the needs of consumers.
  • Be an active advocate for property rights.
  • Be visibly active in building inclusive, safe, environmentally sound and prosperous communities so REALTORS® are recognized as trusted and respected leaders in their communities. 

Content for required education under the new code will also include professional courtesies regarding appropriate business behavior toward peers and training on understanding and employing responsible use of social media. The directors also said REALTORS® must complete education regarding both the Code of Ethics and the new Code of Excellence every two years.

Wow. And that’s not all.

The directors also adopted two other major initiatives intended to position the REALTOR® of the future as more professional. 

The first initiative deals with data and the second deals with ratings. Regarding data, the directors set the goal of ensuring REALTORS® have efficient access to the broadest range and most accurate data available, taking full advantage of NAR’s size and scale. This will involve collecting and utilizing more detailed information regarding consumers and our members. 

Regarding ratings, over 50 different agent rating systems are currently operated by third parties with more on the way. The directors voted to develop an industry standard or model that allows consumers to fairly and accurately evaluate REALTORS®, combining criteria that is relevant to REALTORS®’ business practices with criteria that is important to consumers. Under this approach, NAR would not rate its members but rather create a model or industry standard that other rating sites would be encouraged to use. A work group will be established to work on the details.

The future is always a hard thing to predict, but in a very real sense, NAR has taken decisive action aimed at raising the professionalism of members across the country. This action comes on the heels of new core standards adopted last May that are intended to raise the bar for all state and local associations. Time alone will tell if these steps achieve their goals. If the director debate preceding adoption of these new programs is any indication, these changes will not be universally liked or easily implemented. But if constructed and implemented effectively, these changes may just be ushering in a new century of professionalism in the real estate industry. Let’s hope so.

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