How Americans View You

In Gallup’s latest survey on the honesty and ethics of various professions, real estate agents can find reasons to smile.

July 18, 2012

Are you an honest, ethical person? I don’t know many people who would answer that question in the negative. Yet, we tend to doubt the ethics of others. At least that’s the conclusion I come to when I look at the results of a recent Gallup survey about honesty and ethics. Of 21 professions in the survey, only six were rated "very high or high" by most respondents.

Although "real estate agent" was not among those top six, there’s good news in the survey: The profession was rated as having very high, high, or average ethical standards by 77 percent of U.S. adults. And the percentage who rated agents’ honesty and ethics as high or very high (20 percent) represents an increase of several percentage points from Gallup measures of the 1990s, when the high/very high number was consistently in the mid-teens. By contrast, look at the results for another profession: During the 1990s, business executives typically scored in the low to mid-20s in the high/very high category. In the latest survey, the number dropped to 18, while 32 percent rated their ethics as low or very low (compared with 22 percent for real estate agents).

Americans' confidence in business executives has been eroded by scandals in the energy, financial services, and telecommunications industries. Yet real estate agents haven’t suffered the same erosion in reputation as a result of the housing crisis. No doubt, people recognize that individual real estate agents didn’t have control over the factors that caused the housing crisis. That explains why they fared better than business executives in the low/very low category. But what’s causing more respondents to rate real estate agents in the high/very high category? Could it be that the industry has made strides in winning the hearts and minds of American consumers?

I recently saw some online comments about how little consumers know or care about the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. That may very well be true, but does it matter? Through positive outreach to consumers and the media via, Real Estate Today radio, and more than a decade of national TV advertising, NAR is helping to build stronger ties between REALTORS® and consumers. I say helping because NAR is only part of the picture. Similar work is happening at state and local associations and in individual offices, where agents are winning hearts and minds one client at a time by persevering through very difficult transactions.

Will real estate agents ever break into Gallup’s top tier among doctors, nurses, and clergy? Let’s check back in 2014 when Gallup is scheduled to ask again about real estate agents’ honesty and ethics.

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is executive editor of publications for the National Association of REALTORS® and editor in chief of REALTOR® Magazine.