Preserving Ethics in Real Estate Practice
In the world of real estate sales, and as an Ohio real estate professional, I'm often backed up against the wall with a problematic client, the kind of clients some Realtors will avoid and the kind that aren't handled correctly by some agents. Have you ever been in a situation where you know what the right thing to do is, but facing pressure from all sides to bend the rules a bit? I think we've all had that experience, have we not?
What would you do if you were asked to do the unethical?
In today's world, we increasingly seek the best deal, and many people exhibit less than laudible behavior at times in pursuit of such things. As professional Realtors, it's our job to ethically represent our clients, and treat customers (those individuals and entities on the other side of the transaction who are not our clients) with dignity, respect and reasonable care. This can and does place us in uncomfortable positions at times.
I've had clients ask me to find them homes in a Latin or Armenian neighborhood, and of course, that's forbidden by the Ohio Division of Real Estate law. It's forbidden to support fair housing and anti-discrimination laws. My resolution has always been to direct clients to city-data.com, and look up the ethnic information on their own, which many times doesn't go over well at first, but I'm not about ignore the law. In other instances, clients have asked about crime in the area, and again, I refer them to city-data.com, the news and to call their local police department. The same applies to school board ratings. We, as professional can blog or write about communities and state the area has great schools, but forbidden to recommend one specifically.
Here's another fine example of being put in the "hot seat", a client asked me not to long ago, "Would you buy in this neighborhood?" The question seems innocuous enough, but had to choose my answer carefully. I already knew the neighborhood was impoverished, with many, foreclosed, run down, abandoned homes, and see crime in the area on the news frequently.
So, what's a professional to do to stay within the law, avoiding "steering" violations, and still uphold the law and ethics by protecting my client? My answer was simply "I wouldn't care to live there". My client asked why not, and the seat got hotter. I explained as Realtors, we must uphold the law when it comes to things like steering, discrimination and fair housing law concerns. I directed him to do his own research, gave him resources and web addresses, and within days he called me back stating he decided to look elsewhere.
A good Realtor always upholds the law, especially those laws even remotely related to fair housing and all that encompasses, but will still try and find a way to serve the client ethically.