By Bruce H. Aydt, CRB, executive vice president and legal counsel for The Henry Co., REALTORS®, St. Louis.
Real Estate Ethics: Good Ethics = Good Business, 3rd ed. William H. Pivar & Donald L. Harlan. 192pp. Real Estate Education Company, a division of Dearborn Financial Publishing Inc.,1995. $16.95.
If you’ve ever had a little voice pop into your head and ask, “What’s the right thing to do here?” this book may be for you.
Real Estate Ethics is a practical, easy-to-read guide that covers such things as the meaning of ethics, the roles of listing salespeople and buyer’s agents, and the ethics of trust accounts and advertising. The authors do an excellent job of presenting their views on the philosophical role that real estate professionals should assume with fellow brokers and salespeople, both inside and outside their company, with buyers and sellers, and in their community.
For instance, the book calls upon us to remember bigger issues in our business than just the next deal: “By the very nature of their business, real estate licensees have a greater control over the formation and character of a community than does any other group. They therefore have a duty to be community-oriented.”
Each chapter also provides a good mix of text and case studies, which analyze real-life ethics problems. For example, the chapter on advertising and ethics presents the case of a newspaper that runs a series of articles on real estate frauds. All the major real estate advertisers pull their advertising, causing a 20 percent decline in the paper’s ad revenue. The paper then runs a series of articles complimentary to real estate. Is what the advertisers did unethical? The authors say yes. The action indicates “a concerted effort to punish the newspaper.”
Among the practical tips worth noting is one emphasizing that seller’s and buyer’s agents should avoid adversarial relationships and cooperate to achieve the best results for clients.
The book offers reminders, too, about the need to make backup disks and to provide adequate protection for escrow records, away from the broker’s site and in fireproof places, such as a safe.
Although Real Estate Ethics is a very good resource, it would be even better if the authors had clarified why they believe certain conduct is unethical. Is their conclusion based on what they perceive to be a violation of law or of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Code of Ethics or simply their opinion? It also appears that some legal standards are treated as ethical ones.
Overall, however, Real Estate Ethics is a worthwhile addition to a real estate professional’s library. It may help you evaluate the many moral decisions you face in this complex business.