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The Code That Grows

Global business and state laws are among the issues that our evolving Code of Ethics addresses.

March - April
2019

Our industry is changing. Technology brings new business models and the skill set of REALTORS® keeps evolving. You might be wondering where that leaves our venerable Code of Ethics.

The National Association of REALTORS® adopted its Code of Ethics in 1913, a time when there were few guidelines for those working in real estate. It was established to set a high, consistent standard throughout the country for REALTORS® who helped consumers buy, sell, and lease real estate.

As a living document, the Code is continuously updated, although it can be a challenge to stay ahead of the curve. While the Code typically sets a higher standard than the law requires, the Professional Standards Committee is concerned about the disconnect between some state laws and the Code and will be studying this issue in order to keep our Code relevant as state and local laws change. Here are other priorities for the committee this year:

Models Around the World

NAR has bilateral agreements with dozens of real estate associations around the world. These partnerships have been integral to our members’ ability to tap into the booming global real estate business, because our agreements are only with organizations whose real estate professionals also follow a recognized code of conduct.

We see this exposure to other professional practices as a wonderful learning opportunity for NAR, and we want to take advantage of that by keeping closer track of what codes in other countries require and looking at the best of what other systems include, for ideas we may one day want to incorporate.

Mandatory Ethics Training

Eighteen years ago, the NAR Board of Directors established a requirement that real estate professionals complete quadrennial ethics training. Two years ago, the training became a biennial requirement. In the ongoing effort to strengthen the Code, NAR President John Smaby has established a presidential advisory group to make recommendations that will improve its effectiveness.

Improving Search Terms

An important way we engage with the Code is online, so we’ll be taking a hard look at how to improve the search function on nar.realtor. Right now, finding the relevant portion of the Code and Standards of Practice is fairly straightforward if you know the legal term that applies to your situation, but less so if, like many of us, you use more informal language. We want to be able to find what we’re looking for in the Code more easily using common industry terms.

An Exciting Year Ahead

We have a lot to be proud of. We’re more than 1.3 million members strong, and it all began with a few real estate businessmen who were visionaries. More than a century ago, they looked into the future and saw the value we could and should bring to the American people. I wonder if any of them realized the global impact our association and its Code would have.

That’s why the challenge before us to keep the Code relevant is so important. How do we maintain a higher standard no matter how the industry changes? How do we continue to distinguish our members from the average licensee?

Serving on the Professional Standards Committee, it is our task to focus on the steps we need to keep the Code the guiding force of professionalism that it’s always been. There’s a role for you, too. As a REALTOR®, it is important for you to know your Code. Keep your ear to the ground and your eyes on the prize. When you have or hear a great idea or even a bit of knowledge you think we need, please share it. This is about you, your association, and our future.

Leigh York

Leigh York is the 2019 chair of the NAR Professional Standards Committee. She can be reached at leigh@leighyork.com.

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