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Ethics

Identity Impostor

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identity impostor


Here’s something really bizarre that will blow your mind, but only goes to show that strange things do happen in the on-line world.  What if you have spent years growing a following, establishing an on-line reputation, growing your social capital to find out one day there’s an impostor with your same name that can change your social graph from one day to the next?

What would you do if someone in your marketplace had your same name and people were constantly getting you confused?

Well….there happens to be an Ines Garcia in South Florida who is also a Realtor- luckily for me, she is no impostor and is a really nice person.  The similarities are quite shocking, she is also from Venezuela and she also has an architectural background….what are the odds?

ines garcia and ines hegedus-garcia

I know I go out of my way to be known as “Ines Hegedus-Garcia”, but some people just choose to drop the “complicated surname” and remember the Garcia.  Ines has been nice enough to email me when someone confuses us or she will clearly just tell them that they have the wrong “ines”.  We even joke in the background about the fact that we both have good reputations, because it would suck if one of us dropped the ball.

Sometimes I think it would be so much easier if she was obnoxious, that way people would identify us on the spot.

So how can you address a situation like this?  There is no malicious intent and we may be sharing social capital simply because we share the same name.  From a business ethic point of view, it can get us into trouble if we couldn’t identify  a client or potential customer that was making a mistake.

I’m throwing it out there to get some suggestions because I am truly at a loss.  Neither of us intends to change our name – or to call ourselves “the other ines” or “bizarro ines” ….although THAT would make things so much easier.

What do you do if someone with your name in your market pops up?

Ines is all Miami, all the time. A Miami Beach Realtor® with Majestic properties, Ines authors Miamism.com, PrimeMiamiBeach.com, and MiamismPix.com and is always on communication's leading edge. She goes out of her way to engage and be engaged, often using Mojitos to keep the mood light and give everything she does a Miami flavor. You can find her goofing off or instigating trouble at Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Vicki Lloyd

    May 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Everybody already knows that you are the “Mojito Ines!”

    I don’t have any other Vicki Lloyds in my area, but there is a gorgeous 21 year old European model with my name. Knowing that, it kind of helps me understand the bounce rate on my website! (People searching for European models don’t have much interest in California real estate agents!)

  2. "The Other" Ines Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks for the kind words…
    I prefer to be known as “the other” Ines Garcia than be obnoxious.
    I don’t know how many doors have openned to me already for having the same name as a real estate on-line celebrity!

  3. Lani Rosales

    May 11, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    I asked Jason Falls what he thought and here was his priceless response over Twitter direct message:

    “Wow. That’s odd. I’d recommend they go into business together “2 Heads Realty”? Worth pondering.”

  4. Rob Hahn

    May 11, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Is assassination completely out of the question then?

    -rsh

  5. Lani Rosales

    May 11, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Ines, my personal take is that this is tricky. I don’t happen to know Other Ines but I’ve seen you very graciously handle this situation you’re both in. It seems to me though that proper etiquette would be for the person latest to the party to alter their public branding to set themselves apart. This is better PR for her because what happens if you go on a killing spree? She’s then also known as the whack job who lost it (or vice versa).

    There’s not much you can do other than continue being gracious and kind as it is your nature to do so and hopefully Other Ines will brand herself away from the name “Ines Garcia” or she is taking a big risk that (1) your reputation will remain golden and (2) she won’t be ostracized for unintentionally being an imposter.

    I recommend she garner a following based on something unique about her, maybe change her online identity to “SoFloRealtor” or something clever excluding the name Ines. It’s not her fault, it’s not your fault, but it would be impolite to go ignored.

  6. Lani Rosales

    May 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Good gawd, Rob! For those of you who don’t personally know Rob, he is kidding. Seriously, he’s joking.

    LOLing in my insidey voice

  7. jfsellsius

    May 11, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Interesting situation. And I thought the John Smiths had a problem. Hmm.. maybe that’s why agents put their photos everywhere.

    @Rob Hahn…. kidnapping perhaps?

  8. Lani Rosales

    May 11, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    also, if you don’t know joe personally, HE TOO is kidding!!! poor Other Ines 🙁

    still LOLing in my insidey voice

  9. Rob Hahn

    May 11, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Okay, if assassination and kidnapping are completely off the table…

    I think this is simply a matter of brand power. In a sense, you two have competing personal brands within your market. If yours is stronger, then the other Ines will ride your coat-tail for a bit, but eventually end up becoming just a shadow in your bigger brand. If the converse, then the other way around.

    You can cooperate, but when it comes to names, that’s a little tricky because one of you two will need to give up the name or at least social market identity.

    If I were you, personally, I’d investigate making Miamism a far bigger brand than your name. At least on Twitter, I don’t think I know half the names of people I chat with on a daily basis. @jeffx, @heyamaretto, @laniar, @respres, @tyr… I have to stop and think what the person’s actual name is. Dustin’s “brand” is Tyr, as far as I’m concerned.

    -rsh

  10. Jay Thompson

    May 11, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    There is a guy named Jay Thompson who is a professional surfer (of waves, not the Internet) in Australia. I’ve offered a couple of times to trade jobs with him, but I’ve never gotten a response.

    And when I lived in Austin, there was an attorney named Jay Thompson. That was kind of funny until I started getting calls at 3:00am from people wanting me to bail them out of jail.

    What can ya do? Sounds like the dual-Ines’ have it worked out about as best they can.

  11. Russell Shaw

    May 11, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Rob was not kidding about assassination. If you are the “other Ines”, watch your ass.

    I totally agree with Rob, Miamism, is the way to go.

    There was another Russell Shaw, a very prominent blogger. russellshaw.com and russellshaw.net were and still are his domains. Once I started blogging he would get random emails intended for me. He was much better known than I was as a blogger, so I never got his email but he routinely got mine. I was blessed that he was an incredibly nice person so him forwarding my email was never an issue. We became friends and I was quite sad to learn of his passing about a year ago. I was fortunate that he was mostly a political and technical writer and only rarely wrote about real estate. He and I always referred to ourselves when signing off as “the other Russell”.

    The other Ines may be a very nice person but as she is right there and in the same business I say run with the Miamism ball.

  12. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    OK – guys….I am laughing my ass off here reading Rob, Joe and Russell’s answers. The “other Ines” is a really nice person (Thank God for that) and as you can see by her comment, she even has a sense of humor!

    Ines…..it took your google alerts a bit long to locate this post….I’m surprised!! 😀

    As for Miamism, it IS our brand and definitely the way to go – although I don’t sign in to comment in people’s blogs as “miamism” (that could be considered overbranding) and then there’s the issue of the name “ines” – have you any clue how difficult it is for people to say the name? and how hard it’s been to make people remember it? (SIGH)

    I do have the “miamism” handle on Twitter – I may start using it now just to throw everyone off. Thanks for the feedback, very much appreciated.

  13. teresa boardman

    May 11, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    There is also another Teresa Boardman who is a realtor. She hates that I have all the domain names for the name but she has not participated in social media and when the name is googled the first zillion records are me. Honestly if your name were Mary Smith or John Jones neither of you would have any chance at the name recognition thing. Just be thankful there are only tow of you.

  14. Benn Rosales

    May 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    You could always recruit her and start a new firm called Ines y Ines? The last thing you need is the miami CSI on your rear, although this would make a kick ass csi episode 🙂

  15. Kevin Tomlinson

    May 11, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Wow–I’d bring that other Ines Garcia DOWN—-Joan Rivers style!

    I’m only joking.

    My two cents: The time you spend on “switching” and protecting to another handle, when you already have such great momentum on the “old one”—I think your time would be better spent looking forward instead of protecting a fluke here and there.

    Just my $.02.

  16. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Kick ass CSI episode!! 🙂

    Kevin…..I just spend about 5 minutes on twitter announcing my switch to miamism and I am already friggin’ exhausted!! you may be right….not worth the effort. (did I just agree with you?)

  17. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    ANOTHER “T”? say it isn’t so!! I can barely take one of you …. much less two! (you know I love ya)

  18. Rob Hahn

    May 11, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    If my name were Mary Smith, I would go to court and officially have it changed to Ignacio von Rickensturmgerachten de la Mancha.

    Or Borock Obama. Take advantage of that whole Americans-who-can’t-spell thing.

    “Listen, honey, the PRESIDENT told me to buy this house! How can I say no???”

    -rsh

  19. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    Rob, funny thing is that when I married Rick 17 years ago I refused to change my name to a common name like “ines garcia” which happens to be like John Smith in South America – I suggested changing his last name to “Garsha” or “Garci”…but he didn’t buy it ….hence the hyphenation.

  20. Geordie Romer

    May 11, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I met some great folks at the Seattle RE Bar Camp because of a similar confusion. Apparently folks thought that Geordy Rostad and I were the same guy. Since we work for the same big regional franchise we have very similar emails. Since we don’t work the same market I know we will forward any emails that go to the wrong Geordy / Geordie.

  21. "The Other" Ines Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    I knew you had a fan club but I didn’t expect they will get so pasionate!
    I promote mostly mywestonblog but I am sorry for your friends… I won’t change my name. I was married to a guy with a french last name (very glamorous) and I used it at the beginning of my RE career…I don’t even use that last name for my son’s school’s now.
    By the way Kevin…I work for your same company!!!! can you make it a 5 cents and add something nice???
    LOL
    I have had fun so far and I guess I can expect much more!

  22. Ken Brand

    May 11, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Check, check, double check….I’m voting for “Miamism”. It’s the first thing I thought of…after “mojitos”. No doubt it’s a pain in the ass to change everything, I’d start including it everything and of course use you’re picture everywhere.

    1.5 cents worth.

  23. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    ken – anything that is “formal” marketing is miamism – but then a conflict arises – if social media is about presenting yourself as a human being and not a business, if it’s about making connections and engaging people and showing your personality – how can I do that without a name?

    Everyone knows that “ines” is behind Miamism – everyone will have to pay attention now and make sure they are talking to the right person. I will be try to figure out the miamism bit.

  24. Louise Scoggins

    May 11, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Hi Ines! I am new to AG and have thoroughly enjoyed reading this post…I definitely had a few LOL moments! Luckily I don’t have another “Louise Scoggins” in my marketplace, but I will tell you that many people in my area know me by my slogan / website. So, I agree with many of the comments on here that branding is the way to go. Do you have a logo for the Miamism? Maybe that’s a place to start…I know my logo was something that really helped me out a lot. It incorporated both my slogan and my website and was posted everywhere that I could think of…websites, cards, email, mailouts, etc etc.

    Whatever you do, GOOD LUCK! I’ll be following along 🙂

  25. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 11, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Hey Louise – welcome to AG and thanks for the compliments. Branding is my thing so you better believe miamism and the logo appear in everything we do – even our mojito reviews – but when it comes to Facebook, Twitter and other sites…….hmmmm……..many would consider it a hard sale.

    I’m not 100% convinced – but I will keep branding Miamism….it’s what we have always done.

  26. Dan Connolly

    May 11, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Ines,
    Maybe I am a little slow, but I have been reading your posts and following you on twitter and have rarely gotten past the Hegedus all the way to garcia. I know you are Ines from Miami with three names, and I definately wouldn’t think that someone named Ines Garcia was you. I don’t really think its a conflict. I have always seen the three names (one which I can’t pronounce) and that is the brand I remember…

  27. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 12, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Dan, that makes me feel great and I’m thankful for my unpronounceable maiden name – thank you!!! 😀

  28. Jay Thompson

    May 12, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Dan – don’t feel bad. I can pronounce “Ines” three or four different ways and they are probably all wrong!

    But I love her! (and “the other Ines” is a super good sport too!)

  29. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 12, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Do you still want that mojito Jay? come on!! you know how to pronounce “INES” remember the lesson? the shampoo “Finesse” without the F

  30. Joe Loomer

    May 12, 2009 at 5:56 am

    I never thought I had a problem with my relatively rare surname, until some of the jokesters around the office started calling me “J-Lo.”

    Don’t know how to take advantage of THAT in the real estate world – any semblance of advantage would be short-lived once my Navy Chief mug got on their screen! Maybe I should change my profile picture 😉

    CMDLR – hope you got that one Ines!

  31. Ines Hegedus-Garcia

    May 12, 2009 at 8:45 am

    J-lo!! 🙂 you will never hear the end of that one (good move combining CDLR and MDLR)

  32. Susie Blackmon

    May 14, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Just go by INES … like Cher. You know, like ‘Ines Does Miamism’ and the like. 😉

  33. ines

    May 14, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I like that Susie – ….not DALLAs……Ines does Miamism 🙂

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Ethics

The problem with a self-policing industry: you have to be a narc

Ethics violations in the real estate industry can make or break a Realtor’s career, depending on the severity, so it would stand to reason that all would be mindful of the rules, but there are always individuals in the field that act as if the Code of Ethics is irrelevant.

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An animated discussion on ethics training

“Does anyone else find it ironic that NAR – the trade association for Realtors – has to mandate that members take an ethics class every four years?” An agent who attended one of my company’s broker opens yesterday posed that question to the wine and cheese grazing attendees. Of course, that opened up an animated discussion on the value of etchics training and the lack of enforcement when the rules are violated.

One agent volunteered that the guy sitting next to her in her last ethics class played games on his cell phone and then cheated during the test at the end of the class. Seriously, dude? You cannot even pay attention long enough to pass what should be the easiest test you’ll ever have to take in your career? Perhaps he was just seeing how far he could push it by cheating during an ethics test, to see if anyone else around him caught the extreme irony there. None of the other agents around him – including the agent he cheated off – turned him in and the instructor didn’t notice.

This same agent later called one of my sellers and tried to convince him to break a listing contract with me, because he had a “guaranteed buyer” in the wings. The seller was an attorney, and this bozo tried to get me cut out of the deal, offering the seller a reduced fee to dump me. The seller held firm and directed the agent to call me, then the seller called to let me know about the conversation.

“But you know if you file something the other agent will know.”

It gets better. After the deal closed, I requested paperwork from our local Board of Realtors to file an ethics complaint. The person in charge said, “But you know if you file something the other agent will know.” Gee. Really? I asked her to send the paperwork over anyway.

I called the seller/attorney and asked him to repeat the conversation to me, because I was documenting it to file a complaint. He turned wishy washy on me at that point and his story changed from “The other agent tried to get me to dump you as the listing agent to cut you out” to “Well he really only asked a few questions and I told him to call you. He probably didn’t mean any harm by it.” So there goes my star witness, who doesn’t want to rock the boat.

I didn’t file the complaint. I resorted to the “turn the blind eye but never trust the sleazeball again” path. And that is what happens to almost all ethics issues I hear about / see in person.

That’s what happens when you have a self-policing group of “professionals” who would rather not “narc” on a fellow agent. After all you’re probably going to end up on the other side of a deal from this guy some day, right? The guy in my example has sold two of my houses since that run-in. Why tick him off by filing a complaint and going through all that hassle? If he stops bringing buyers to my properties then my sellers ultimately lose, right?

Boiling down the CoE

The NAR Code of Ethics takes up pages and pages of tiny print, and it runs each year in their trade magazine (I think it’s the January issue). Does anybody read that? Probably not many. I’d argue none of us ever should have to read it again. Simply follow this advice instead. The thousands of words in the Code boil down to one thing: Do unto other agents, and consumers, and clients, what you would have them do unto you. It’s the Golden Rule. Simple. Well, obviously not, for many agents and brokers.

The sad part is the agent in my example had no clue how close I was to filing that compaint, and if he did know he’d probably scratch his head and wonder why his actions were “wrong.” Making us take a one-day class every few years won’t “make” the unethical agents suddenly operate ethically. Most of them just don’t get it.

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Ethics

Ethics hearings in private a disservice to consumers?

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Fight Club and real estate

For those of you that saw the movie ‘Fight Club’ you’ll remember that Rule #1 is “You do not talk about fight club,” followed closely by Rule #2, “You DO NOT talk about fight club.” Which, believe it or not, brings me to today’s topic: The Real Estate Code of Ethics and Arbitration. Article 17 obligates Realtors to resolve fights disputes with another Realtor through arbitration (not litigation). Arbitration is conducted at the local board level, and I am not aware of a local board that doesn’t require arbitration to be confidential.

I respect that public internecine warfare amongst Realtors isn’t in the interest of our industry, and doesn’t belong in the public spotlight. I’m not here to advocate the collective airing of our dirty laundry. That said, I wonder if our collective agreement to keep our concerns confidential can inadvertently harm the consumer and ultimately makes all of us look a little shoddier?

To find the first arbitration guidelines created by NAR and distributed as a set of suggested rules for boards to follow, we have to travel all the way back in time to 1929. NAR’s first Code of Ethics & Arbitration Manual wasn’t created until 1973, and it credited a 1965 California Association of Realtors version as its model.

Appalling conduct

I can think of two instances in the past year where I was so appalled by the conduct of a fellow Realtor that I went to the trouble to inquire about how to lodge a Code of Ethics complaint with my local board. After weighing the time required to make a competent complaint and comparing it with the best case outcome (a closed-to-the-public hearing in which they were found to have violated the code of ethics), I decided not to pursue a complaint in both cases. My association’s bylaws (and probably yours) give it the power to discipline any member based on the results of a Code of Ethics hearing, “provided that the discipline imposed is consistent with the discipline authorized by the Professional Standards Committee of the National Association of REALTORS® as set forth in the Code of Ethics and Arbitration Manual of the National Association.”

“Sanctioning Guidelines” – (Appendix VII of Part 4 of the 2011 manual for the very curious), guides member boards to impose disciplinary consequences that are progressive and fair, taking all considerations into account. Sample first-time disciplinary actions include suggestions of a letter of warning, a fine (amounts range from $200 to $5,000 depending on the severity of the violation), and attendance at relevant education sessions. Not to sound defeatist, but a confidential letter of warning and a fine of around $200 doesn’t seem like an outcome worth investing much of my time in.

Practicing in the internet era

Given that we live and work in the internet era, and review sites like Yelp abound, it seems a bit odd to me that a local board might know of an agent with problem behavior that is documented yet choose to make that information unavailable to consumers. My understanding is that the results of a code of ethics hearing are confidential with disclosure authorized in a few situations, none of which deal with informing the public.

Many of my fellow colleagues feel that the best response to a bad agent is to be patient and give them enough time to work themselves out of business. I can respect and understand their hands-off approach. But what about the damage that individual does to our industry as a whole? While we whisper, warn in confidence and know amongst ourselves how awful they are, the public doesn’t get the benefit of our perspective. Deprived of it, they turn to consumer review sites like Yelp.

How do you think we, as an industry, can help consumers in their quest to find a trustworthy agent?

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Ethics

Realtors, we really need to get over ourselves already

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A letter from the child of a Realtor.

Real estate now vs. 1987

In Real Estate, some things are always changing, like financing, education, laws, rules and technology. The two that will always remain constant, as long as they are within the law, are following our clients’ directions, and working with their best interests in mind.  I’m not sure we always follow through with this, though.

Some of us knowingly take over priced listings.  Some of us take listings that are out of our area of expertise.  Some of us won’t show short sales or REOs.  Some of us won’t show homes with low co-op splits.  Some of us don’t have Supra/e-Keys, and miss out on those listings entirely.

Putting our interests first

When these things occur we are putting our own interests first, not our clients’.  We may think that by having as many listings as possible is a good thing, that’s what we’re taught after all, isn’t it?  It may not matter that some are overpriced, eventually, whether one month or four months down the line, the price will be reduced.  It’s just a matter of time and money, for our clients, after all.  The same can be said when we take listings outside our area of expertise, just to add on to our inventory.  If we don’t know what we’re doing, on a short sale listing, for example, it will only cost our clients a lot of time and money.  A lot.

By eliminating certain houses our clients see, that may already fit their criteria, we’re taking away their choices.  Distressed sales account for close to 40% of the market.  This is probably higher in some local markets.  There is no legitimate way to ignore roughly 1/3 of the homes being sold.  Co-op fees are often a touchy subject, especially when they are, not “enough.”  If everyone utilized a Buyer Broker Agreement that stipulated what their fee was, the issue would take care of itself.  Not being able to access listings with the use of Supra/e-Keys is a choice.   Choosing not purchase one will mean agents will not be able to access Fannie Mae (and eventually, probably additional Gov REO homes) along with the listings that are already using them.

Our priorities versus theirs

We totally need to get over ourselves already.  We are not bigger than our clients.  Our priorities are not more important than theirs when it comes to the actual listing and selling of homes.

Recently, my awesome parents dug through a few boxes and rounded up one of my first art projects. About 25 years ago I did the poster featured above about my Mom, and her Real Estate career.  It was for an Open House (no pun, honest!!!) for the elementary school where I attended first grade.  It was just, what she did according to me way back then.  Things are way more complicated now, than when I was six.  There’s a heck of a lot more paperwork for one.  But the same basic principle still applies.

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