Keeping it Relevant

Your input adds value to our symbol of pride.

January 1, 2005

Our REALTOR® Code of Ethics is, in many ways, the jewel of the REALTOR® family. And like a fine piece of jewelry symbolizing an important occasion, the Code signifies the decision REALTORS® made in 1913 to commit themselves to honor and service. Over nine decades, the Code has grown in meaningfulness, sentimentality, and value, becoming a shining symbol of integrity, pride, and professionalism.

For the Code to remain vital, it must be polished—reviewed constantly in light of changing practices, business models, consumer expectations, and technologies. The procedures by which the Code are taught and enforced must also be upgraded and enhanced. This role falls to the national Professional Standards Committee. But the polishing process can be successful only with the meaningful input of REALTORS® and association executives representing every jurisdiction and constituency. Your questions about procedures and about how the Code can be applied and interpreted, as well as your service on local and state association grievance committees, hearing and appeal panels, and boards of directors, help the professional standards group make the Code as relevant as possible.

Several changes to the Code and to professional standards processes and courtesies were enacted in 2004.

  • The Standards of Practice related to Article 10 were clarified and expanded. Under the modification, REALTORS® may—when not involved in the sale or lease of a residence—provide demographic information to a party to a transaction. There’s a copy of the 2005 Code in this issue (after this page), so please take a few minutes now, while you’re thinking about it, to review Article 10.
  • The NAR Board of Directors approved comprehensive enhancements to Pathways to Professionalism, the association’s voluntary guide to professional courtesy, which was created in 1998. Among the new recommendations: “Don’t tell people what you think. Tell them what you know” and “When showing property, keep all members of the group together.”
  • In response to concerns identified by local and state associations, the Professional Standards Committee has given local associations discretionary authority to permit parties to an ethics and arbitration hearing to participate by videoconference or teleconference. In addition, hearing panels now have the authority to prohibit the use of cell phones and other communications devices during hearings.
  • After several years of deliberation, the debate over whether the Code should obligate REALTORS® to mediate disputes is over. The Professional Standards Committee, guided by the input of REALTORS® and AEs, concluded that although mediation should be strongly encouraged and that necessary resources should be devoted to making it the REALTOR® family’s preferred dispute-resolution tool, REALTORS® shouldn’t be required to participate in mediation as a condition of membership.

That decision doesn’t diminish mediation’s effectiveness in resolving the inevitable disputes that arise in our profession. Rather it underscores the voluntary, relationship-building nature of mediation: When people elect to participate, there’s a better chance they’ll resolve not only the money issue but any underlying issues as well.

It’s an honor for me to serve as this year’s Professional Standards Committee chair, especially now that the first Quadrennial ethics training cycle has passed successfully. The training ensures all members become and remain conversant with the Code’s obligations—our ultimate promise of performance and professionalism—at least once every four years.

With the enthusiasm and support of 1 million REALTORS® and the wisdom of nearly a century of experience, our Code will continue to shine brightly, guiding us in 2005 and beyond.

Mattison, CRS®, GRI, is the 2005 chair of NAR’s Professional Standards Committee and an associate broker with Long & Foster, REALTORS®, in Washington, D.C. You can reach him at

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