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Ethics

Weenies, Flaming Poo, and Me

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I’ve been thinking about if and how I fit in here on AgentGenius.  I am not a frequent poster.  I’m told flaming poo is about to smack into my abode if I do not poke my head into this arena more often.  I started a post last week when I learned my first blog is as old as Teresa’s weenie, but in the process of writing it, I worked out my issue and felt no need to publish.Allow me to weigh in on the latest AG issues so we’re all caught up:

  • I do not own a suit.  I wear capris and privos to work, on the days I deign to change out of jammies and leave the house.
  • And from the same post which took a bizarre turn: I have taken down some of my own websites for improper use of the word ‘realtor’ as well as ‘mls,’ one after an NAR “enforcement” letter and the other after a threatening email from a not-so-friendly realtor across the country.  The ‘realtor’ domain has now been used by a different agent out of my brokerage for a couple years, with no seeming consequences.  C’est la vie, eh?
  • Much like Shailesh, I am also not Castro or Stalin.
  • I’m not burnt out, as much as I am overwhelmed.   
  • On a scale from 1 to Tolerant, I am a 4.

Now then. 

Mostly?  I keep my head down and I work.  I don’t spend much time thinking globally, or nationally, or even state-ally.  I don’t have deep, complicated thoughts about NAR or the MLS.  I prefer to leave the big picture, the politics, to everyone else.  If the stated goal here is to “talk about what is hot in technology, new and inventive real estate business models, the nature of the real estate industry, hot topics that impact consumers and so much more” then perhaps I fall into the “more” category.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have answers.  I’ve got questions and issues and attempts to solve them that may or may not go awry.  I’ve got several big projects and ideas in the works, but I’ve been keeping a lot to myself just in case they turn out to be a massive truck of fail.

So I’ll happily write more often, if you’ll free me of my perceived obligation to enlighten you.  Perhaps it’s the Genius moniker that doesn’t sit well.  I’m just the little ole Housechick, plugging away over here in the Old Pueblo.  I’ll let you in on my projects and ideas, but there’s no guarantees here, and some posts may be more question than solution.  I’m not sure where I fit in on this crazy train, but I’m up for the ride if you are.

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Jonathan Dalton

    March 25, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Very well said …

    I once was told I don’t “share” what I’m doing that makes me successful. Maybe it’s because I don’t always feel successful. Or maybe that when I do, it’s because I have my head down and am just plugging along doing much of what others are doing.

  2. Vicki Moore

    March 25, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Me too! I’m with you. Once I realized people were reading what I wrote, all of a sudden broke out with writer’s block. Genius or no, I enjoy reading what you write and I’m looking forward to hearing more.

  3. Mariana Wagner

    March 25, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I *heart* HouseChick … Even IF she winds up with a “massive truck of fail” … which is highly unlikely.

  4. Maureen Francis

    March 25, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    The moniker weighs heavily here too. Maybe we should just post questions and let everyone else supply the answers.

  5. Benn Rosales

    March 25, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Humility is not a fail, and is the notable quality in which many of you were chosen. It is in essence what makes AG real and sincere, and the epic following and contribution at AG proves it.

    The great thing about AG is what is someone else’s stregnth is another’s weakness. When one is blocked, another writer fills the void and inspires.

    So even if you’re sitting idle on the sidebar with nothing to contribute, someone else will surely fill the void.

    c’est la vie

  6. Bill Lublin

    March 26, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Kelly – looks like you did insert genius here – nice post – well written thoughtful and articulate – Like Woody Allen said, “90% of life is just6 showing up”
    Don’t mean to put any pressure on you but I certainly felt enlightened – 🙂

  7. Teresa Boardman

    March 26, 2008 at 4:33 am

    I write because I am afraid of Lani. I am positive that she does have a way of throwing flaming poo at me even though we live at opposite ends of the country. I have also gone through a bout of writers block. Much has happened in the last couple of weeks. Not being able to write happens to everyone at some time. We just have to make sure that it does not happen to all of us at once. I don’t think Lani would actually hurt us but I like to be careful just in case.

  8. Shailesh Ghimire

    March 26, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Kelley,

    Very relevant. Needing every post to be a home run is not the reason to blog – and trying to prove you’ve got all the answers is not the point either. I blog therefore I am and to me that is all that matters. I agree with Benn’s assessment about the group of writers – the folks on AG write heart felt and genuine posts.

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    March 26, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    There is nothing like the threat of crap covered with combustible fluid, ignited and then catapulted at you; to encourage you to author your best diatribe!

    (I can translate that for those who didn’t get the humor)

    I have to say I am not easily intimidated at all, but when Benn and Lani e-mailed that we needed to write more; I developed a little blockage or my own.

    I love your honesty and I can completely agree…. it’s hard to write opinion when everyone expects you to be a world changer. Today, I’m with you. I don’t care about MLS or NAR. Tomorrow I’ll care about something – I suppose.

    I happen to like you for your Twitter posts, so unbury yourself and come back here to post!

  10. Gena Riede

    March 26, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Great article. Nice to see that there are so many “geniuses” right here…who would have thought!

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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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