Learning the Code: Fresh at Age 90

The Code that unites us also makes us one in a million.

January 1, 2004

At the annual convention in November, the Multiple Listing Issues and Policy Committee celebrated the 90th birthday of National Association of REALTORS® director and California broker Myra Goldwater. That reminded me that our REALTOR® Code of Ethics also turned 90 in 2003. Like our friend Myra, the Code remains fresh, responsive to the REALTOR® membership, and consumer-focused.

The Code—and our individual commitment to it—is highlighted in the REALTOR® Public Awareness Campaign, now beginning its seventh year. Anyone who sees these television spots will be touched by REALTORS®’ commitment to the public and will more fully appreciate the importance of the Code to REALTORS® and to consumers.

Last summer, a member visiting the REALTOR®building in Chicago suggested that NAR give every association of REALTORS® a framed copy of the Code to be displayed in state and local headquarters. We’ve gone one step better and created a downloadable Code of Ethics poster, suitable for framing and available to every member at no cost on REALTOR.org's law and policy section.

Please use this handsome resource to tell your customers and clients that you pledge yourself to the principles and obligations embodied in the Code. The Code is one of the things that makes each of us “one in a million,” according to Walt McDonald, our 2004 president.

The beginning of the new year is a perfect time to renew our knowledge of the Code of Ethics. And 2004 offers a wonderful opportunity: It’s the final year of the initial quadrennial ethics training cycle. Every four years, all REALTORS® must complete ethics training to renew their membership; the first four-year cycle ends Dec. 31. Courses are available through REALTOR.org and many local associations.

Rather than wait until the deadline is looming, why not take the time now to reacquaint yourself with and rededicate yourself to the Code and what it stands for? The time you spend with the Code will be time well spent.

Head off lawsuits

In San Francisco, the Professional Standards and Executive committees discussed the increasing use of mediation as a key dispute-resolution tool for both REALTORS® and consumers. Rather than have decisions imposed by a judge or panel of arbitrators, mediation lets disputing parties work together toward mutually acceptable agreements, often much more quickly than court proceedings. Guided by a trained mediator, mediation can resolve problems or disputes and, equally important, help restore relationships that have suffered because of a disagreement.

NAR has developed a cadre of nearly 250 mediators and mediation trainers to enable every local association to offer this valuable service to members. Training tools and a list of mediators are accessible at REALTOR.org's law and policy section.

Make plans now to ensure that your association sends someone—a member, staff, legal counsel—to the 2004 Mediator/Mediation Training in Chicago Dec. 8–10, 2004. Members who’ve taken the course say it’s one of the best they’ve ever attended, and many graduates go on to train others in their association.

Some associations offer another, more informal dispute resource as well—one that NAR and Professional Standards Committee leadership believe can avert mediation or lawsuits: volunteer ombudsmen. An ombudsman, either a REALTOR® or an association staff member, can reassure consumers, in response to questions and complaints, that they’re being treated fairly and according to normal business practices and inform them about those practices. Ombudsmen can also help practitioners avoid disputes by sharing with them information about the Code, the enforcement process, and procuring cause.

Much of the thought and work that keeps the Code of Ethics alive and relevant to our day-to-day business is contributed by volunteers with the guidance of professional staff. Thank you to all those at the national, state, and local associations for the time, energy, and dedication you devote to the Code. It’s what guides our professional footsteps.

Merilynn Foss, CRS, of Coldwell Banker Steinbrenner in Missoula, Mont., is chair of the 2004 Professional Standards Committee. You can reach her at 406/728-9410 or at mfoss@bigsky.net.

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