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Ethics

When Was The Last Time You Said These Words…

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Apology

Apologies are often given.  Some are better than others.  Some are more sincere than others.  There are even times when the apology is so poorly done, it’s as bad as the offense.  But every now and then, when it is done well, the effect is profound.  One cannot underestimate the power of apology.

I have been absent from Twitter much of last week due to my workload and family commitments.    But I came back to find that an interesting discussion took place.  Clearly, there was a debate about the value of Social Media.  While I am curious about that conversation, I am more intrigued by the recent post MarcDavison wrote.

I am so moved by the dignity in Davison’s post.  It’s simple and  incredibly gracious.  But what caused me to really pause was the willingness to say something so uncommon that I can’t really recall the last time I heard someone utter it.  I certainly have not seen it in such a public forum in a very long time.

I Was Wrong

Those simple words, ‘I was wrong,’ are rarely articulated.  And often when they are, it’s immediately followed by the one word that negates it all – ‘but’.

That quality, that willingness to do what has become so rare, an unqualified admission, is one that I greatly admire and do not always possess myself.  I’m not entirely surprised to see Marc’s post came on the heels of a long conversation with a man that I believe is an example of that type of integrity, Bill Lublin.

You both have my respect and admiration.

Linsey Planeta is the Broker Owner of Belterra Fine Homes in Orange County, California. Linsey rants regularly on her blog, OC Real Estate Voice. She also provides sellers with tips on how to get their home sold on Why Didn't My Home Sell? She has been an active Real Estate Coach and Instructor and loves working with agents so that they may look at their business with fresh eyes, renewed purpose, and defined systems. Linsey can be found in her office or you can also find her on Twitter@Linsey.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Doug

    December 15, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    While I didn’t follow the conversation last week about the value of social media, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment about the value of a sincere apology when you’ve made a mistake. In my experience, the phrase, “I was wrong but…”, is much better rephrased as, “I was wrong AND this is how I’m going to fix it so that this situation doesn’t happen again.” Clients, customers, family and co-workers deserve no less. Get in the habit of saying ‘and’ rather than ‘but’ and watch the magic happen!

  2. Bill Lublin

    December 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Linsey – Thanks for your kind words – You know you have a special place in my heart- and I agree with you completely about Marc – he is an exceptional man who is not only smart but with amazing integrity and depth of character – best part of the whole thing was getting to spend some time on the phone with him –
    Look forward to my next “Planeta time” Saty well enjoy the Holidays and send my love and respect to your family!

  3. Los Angeles lofts

    December 15, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    I have always believed that when you make a mistake it is always better to own up to it. As an employer, I give much more credit to those who take responsibility for their mistakes rather than those who point fingers at another. We are all wrong at time, it’s better we admit it and learn from our mistakes.

  4. Norm Fisher

    December 15, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    The way that we communicate continues to evolve but the basic principles of human relationships are timeless. A sincere, “I was wrong” will always be one of the more effective ways to “win friends and influence people” and as much as things have changed, the friendships we earn is still a great measure of success.

  5. Linsey Planeta

    December 16, 2009 at 12:00 am

    One of the other things I admire about the post (after thinking about it further) is the willingness to openly change a position. From what I know of Marc, which admittedly is little and only from being a reader of his work, he has strong, well thought out opinions.

    The space is filled with smart, articulate, strong minded individuals. I find it so refreshing to see someone willing to say, “I changed my mind,” or “I see it differently, now.” That’s particularly hard to do when you are vocal and public about your opinion – and very cool.

    And Bill – you can count on it. 🙂 Missing NY but so looking forward to seeing you again soon.

    Doug, Los Angeles Lofts, and Norm – completely agree and thank you for your comments!

  6. Marc

    December 16, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Linsey,

    It’s awfully strange for a person to read things about oneself when they are written by someone they never met. It’s really strange and wonderful.

    I am sincerely touched by what you took from the piece and how you phrased it in your post. I’ll tell you, this is a magical moment in the history of real estate where discussions between vendors, Realtors, educators, etc., are taking place and unfolding in an open forum where we all learn from each other and grow together. As the industry continues to change from what it was to what its going to be years from now, this moment in time and those who are contributing to it, will be remembered and memorialized.

    I can only say that my 15-minutes of fleeting fame came as a result of this burgeoning movement called social media. I advise all those who seek to teach it and spread it around to do so with utmost care because when it is done right, as Bill has shown me, the effects are breathtaking. Just look what happened to me after speaking to him for a few hours!

    Thank you, good luck and hope we get to meet or speak again.
    Davison

  7. MIssy Caulk

    December 16, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    That was an awesome post by Marc.

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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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