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But, We’re ALL Ethical!


The (NAR) doth protest too much, methinks.

Did you see this? (not too many people have, apparently).

10 Things Your Real Estate Broker Won’t Say

Many of the “10 Things” are arguably true. Some are laughably easy to dispute. Calling the article “dumb” is silly.

1 – “Your house is really just a networking party for me. True. In my market, this is an absolutely true statement.

3 – “My fees are negotiable.” Duh.

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7 – “I won’t let termites – or pesky inspectors – kill a deal” – this is just an asinine statement, barely worthy of a response. I never have been, nor have I heard of, any Realtors being in “cahoots” with anybody. The best part about this entire paragraph is this, “For information on where to find your own home inspector, see item No. 4 in “10 Things Your Home Builder Won’t Tell You,” on page 94.”

At least they are transparent about their attempt to sell a book – ridiculous claims are sure to sell a few books.

In short, it’s a good article insofar as it gives reasonable insight into what consumers – and our clients and potential clients – think of Realtors.

But it’s the defense put forth by the NAR that got me.

While some home sellers do choose to market and sell their homes on their own, unrepresented sellers have no access to fundamental marketing services, such as a Multiple Listing Service.

First, I appreciate his using “unrepresented sellers” – it’s a true descriptor of what FSBOS are. Unrepresented. Second, (however) – the above would have been much more powerful if there was at least one more “fundamental marketing service” other than the MLS. Seriously.

But here’s the rub –

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Realtors® are trained professional real estate practitioners, and only Realtors® are members of NAR and subscribe to the association’s strict code of ethics.

No, no we’re not “trained professionals.” When I finished my 60 hours of real estate “education” I was no more prepared to practice real estate than I was to fly a plane off an aircraft carrier.

Making the argument that Realtors are all trained professionals devalues the Realtor brand. It’s well-documented that becoming a Realtor is a frighteningly easy task.

Some. Some Realtors® are trained professionals – and this training comes from years of experience, not from a classroom. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, “trained” means “60 hours” of non-relevant “training.” Members of the NAR subscribe to their respective MLS’; the Code of Ethics is a means to an end – that end being the MLS.

How many of you have actually read all 17 Standards of Practice?

Photo courtesy of / CC BY 2.0

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Written By

Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.



  1. Bill Lublin

    July 21, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I hate to start the day arguing with someone I like so much, but I think you’re wrong here.
    REALTORS are trained professionals – and regardless of their intentions about the Code of Ethics, they are accountable because they subscribe to them, and have additional training from their local associations in most cases when they become REALTORS.
    Now where I find myself agreeing with you is that the entry level training we receive is only entry level education, and the training process needs to continue all the time during our professional lives.
    And I also agree with you that too many members don;t bother reading the Code, and as a result , may fall foul of it as a result of their ignorance rather then a malicious intent on their part, making your last point awesome!
    Great read Jim – even the parts where you were wrong 😉

  2. Jim Duncan

    July 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Bill –

    What’s wrong with a little argument? The only thing that would make it better would be if it were in person with drinks in hand.

    Saying that all Realtors are trained professionals is an inaccurate statement – newbie Realtors (not said derogatorily) aren’t all trained. Maybe I should have clarified by saying “we’re not *all* trained professionals …” Frankly, my (and others’) experience sets us apart – and rightfully so – from new Realtors.

    A lot of Realtors are experienced and trained professionals, but I would argue a lot more are not.

    God knows I’m better than I was, but nowhere near where I hope to be …

    A question: what training does the NAR provide that grants them the credibility to say that “all Realtors are trained professionals”?

  3. Bob Schenkenberger

    July 21, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Although education to get licensed is tougher these days, when I got my license the only thing I knew about real estate was some legal decision allowing me to practice limited law, and the number of sq. ft. in an acre. How’s that for highly trained!

    I’m happy to say, 18 years later, I know a bit more.

  4. Erion Shehaj

    July 21, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I’m with Jim on this one. Fresh off the school agents don’t even know how to fill out a purchase contract yet they are able to practice on same footing as an experienced agent. Calling it “entry level” training does not make it okay to offer open book tests and send severely unqualified agents out in the market to represent clients. There has to be a minimum competency standard.

  5. Joe Loomer

    July 21, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I think there’s a middle ground in this argument – perhaps by adhering to your adjusted opinion about “some” Realtors.

    I was no more trained after taking the Georgia Pre-License course than the other folks you describe, so the “newbie” out there better pick a good firm with solid educational opportunities to get their feet off the ground.

    Years later I do absolutely believe I am a trained professional, but more self-trained than anything else. Heck, it’s what got me coming to AG in the first place. If the brokers hold their agents accountable to train, train, train, and offer robust education opportunities above and beyond the run-of-the-mill CE courses, then you have Bill’s position. If not, you have Jim’s.

    Any industry has bottom feeders that give the vast majority of us a black eye – but overall my experience has been people want to be professional, and seek information to better their abilities in any profession.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Benn Rosales

    July 21, 2009 at 11:45 am

    @jimduncan et al. Agent’s are trained, however, there is no requirement above a cleared check to become or remain a Realtor.

  7. Joshua Dorkin

    July 21, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Jim –
    I got my license; I joined the NAR and local boards; I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

    Was I a trained professional?
    Far from it!

    I’ve dealt with NAR members of many years who are as far from being “professional” as you could imagine. I even had one rip me off of a commission split that I was due. I regularly hear about agents who don’t submit all offers, and the list goes on.

    Membership does NOT equate with someone’s being a “trained” or “ethical” professional at all, IMO.

    I’m with you 100% on this one, my friend!

  8. Ken Brand

    July 21, 2009 at 11:54 am

    @jimduncan Hmmmm. It’s the same in most industries.
    To succeed requires remarkable Mind Set and Skill Set. I know plenty of hot-stuff, know the rules, forms, etc. types and they are utterly unsuccessful in sales, conversation, connection, business development and client appreciation.

    I also know people with moderate to poor technical skills that are wildly successful and their clients would kill for them.

    Time in service is a poor benchmark/gauge. It’s mind set/skill set that’s the killer combo. My 2 cents.

    The cheezy-annoying part is hearing people pontificate when they suck.

    Nice post about real estate’s Rubik Cube.


  9. Rocky V

    July 21, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Saying all Realtors are “Trained Professionals” is like saying all NASA Space Monkeys are “Trained Astronauts!”

    They may mimic but they don’t understand.

  10. Joe Loomer

    July 21, 2009 at 11:59 am

    @Ken – I’m going to use that line for the rest of my life “pontificate when they suck.”

  11. Lani Rosales

    July 21, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I think the question here is HOW can NAR claim that REALTORS are trained, any more so than just a licensee?

  12. Tony Arko

    July 21, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Writing a check does not make you trained nor does it make you ethical. Disagreeing with these facts is incredulous.

  13. Erion Shehaj

    July 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Ken, my man I disagree with you on this. It is not the same in comparable “representation based” industries. A CPA fresh off a three day exam is much more qualified a pro than a real estate agent at the same stage. Same thing with a certified financial planner.

  14. Benn Rosales

    July 21, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Ah @erionhouston we cannot discount any professional level we held before becoming an agent and paid to be a realtor- many many people come to the profession armed with other experiences that make (some if not most) them great agents- but I’m still not sure in the end still how realtor added or adds to that experience. I actually believe I and most others held even higher ethical standards even from a human level before writing the check to realtor.

  15. Ken Brand

    July 21, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Erion – What. No way I’m wrong.

    Just joshin’n ya, seriously, you’re right. I’m talking about most industries, maybe should have said “some”. But as far as a CPA goes, a freshly minded UT grad isn’t as trained or as valuable as veteran who’s had her clients audited a few times, or previously worked for the IRS etc.

    Same thing with a Financial Planner. Also, both the CPA and the FP may know technically how to do their jobs, but can they find new clients, build client relationships, etc.?

    Of course in most industries, the most skilled professional charge more for their services, in ours oddly, they compete on price instead of results, experience, results, etc. Blows my mind. Instead of monetizing their magnificence, selecting the better clients and earning more, they do something different and unbusiness like. But that’s a whole different subject.

    Real estate is weird business – generally speaking, to succeed you have to do it ALL well.

  16. Jim Duncan

    July 21, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Lani hit the nail on the head: “I think the question here is HOW can NAR claim that REALTORS are trained, any more so than just a licensee?”

    And I really would like an answer to the question – asked in an adversarial yet respectful way – what does NAR offer that qualifies them to say that “REALTORS are qualified”?

    Some are, some aren’t.

    To Benn’s point – I don’t need no 9 pages of a Code of Ethics to prove that I’m ethical. I have my own personal honor that surpasses that of the Realtor CoE. Again, saying that Realtors “subscribe” to the CoE is statement that doesn’t hold water.

    If the CoE was such a draw for Realtors, why do Associations have to offer MLS access in order to get/hold members?

  17. Jim Duncan

    July 21, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Ken – regarding this:

    Of course in most industries, the most skilled professional charge more for their services, in ours oddly, they compete on price instead of results, experience, results, etc. Blows my mind. Instead of monetizing their magnificence, selecting the better clients and earning more, they do something different and unbusiness like. But that’s a whole different subject.

    Even more baffling is that newbies (notthattheresanythingwrong with being new) frequently get paid the same as the wizened veterans …

  18. Ethic Marketing

    July 21, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    But, We’re ALL Ethical! | Real Estate Opinion MAG – AgentGenius: While some home sellers do choose to market..

  19. Michelle DeRepentigny

    July 21, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    @LaniAR How? (tongue in cheek) we have to have that ethics class when we become an R and then every quadrennial 🙂

  20. Baltimore Homes

    July 21, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Well I actually have read the 17 Standards of Practice, but I know for a fact that most “Realtors” would not even know what the Standards of Practice are or who published them. The entry level training we receive is only entry level education. In Baltimore, we have petitioned the local board of realtors and the State or Maryland to increase the minimum education requirements in order to obtain a real estate license. Let me say that I do not mind real estate competition, but when you take a class and call yourself an expert I have an issue.

    From the meetings we have had on this issue, the general consensus was to add an additional on-the-job-training component to becomming a licensed real estate agent. The class would allow you to get a trainee license and after 2 years and/or 30 completed transactions under the supervision of a licensed realtor you could start practicing as an independent agent. Unfortunately, big brokers lobbied against this proposal since it would have negatively impacted their bottom line.

  21. David Olsen

    July 21, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    But, We’re ALL Ethical! | Real Estate Opinion MAG – AgentGenius

  22. Big Dave

    July 22, 2009 at 12:32 am

    But, We’re ALL Ethical! | Real Estate Opinion MAG – AgentGenius

  23. Russell Shaw

    July 22, 2009 at 2:51 am

    In Arizona 45 hours were required when I first got my license in 1978. But now it is 90 hours – so there.

    Also, one thing I learned in real estate licensing school that I actually use is: an acre is 43,560 square feet.

    Knowing that is professional isn’t it?

  24. Jim Rake

    July 22, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Jim – Topics near and dear to my heart. Ethics and training. We know where we are, but how do get to where we need to be as a profession? Do we think NAR is going to lead us there?

    A few weeks ago, one of our local Board staff members defended the Ethics complaint process status quo very strongly. One has to wonder, why aren’t we asking ourselves if the complaint/greivance process can be improved?

    We bemoan our current state, i.e., the lack of professionalism & accountability, but what have we done at our local Board, or nationally, to change things?
    How do we convince our industry that there’s something missing when it comes to agent training and accountability?
    Two weeks of classes, a few hundred dollars & we’re qualified to conduct business? No standardized, mandatory mentoring program for new agents? Why not?
    Re-occurring Ethics training, the same thirty powerpoint slides each time. And we wonder why things don’t change?

  25. Jim Duncan

    July 22, 2009 at 7:59 am

    @Jim Rake – Shhh! That’s the topic of my post next week! The short answer is – not a damn thing, and the ethics complaint process is broken.

  26. Jim Rake

    July 22, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Jim – good to hear, I can’t wait. I’ve written on the topics recently as well. Hopefully, the chorus continues to build!

  27. Memphis Real Estate

    July 23, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    From the – But, We’re ALL Ethical! | Real Estate Opinion MAG – AgentGenius: Read the Sma..

  28. John F. Eisner

    July 23, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Some interesting information from Realtor Jim Duncan:

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