code of ethics
The Code of Ethics in real estate practice is governed by the National Association of Realtors. We are members as Realtors. The articles contained within the code are so important. It always surprises me how these are not practiced by some real estate practitioners. Having a California Broker’s License does not mean that every licensed individual is always working within the parameters of honest and fair dealings.
To file a complaint requires time and effort. By the time the offender has closed escrow with you, often it is just so much paperwork many agents will not file. For the most part, the Sacramento Association of Realtors Grievance Committee and Pro Standards Committees are not kept very busy considering how many members we have. The horror stories I have heard over the 25 years in my practice makes me shake my head in frustration.
Do desperate times call for desperate measures in Sacramento real estate? I’d like to believe otherwise but then I may as well make like an ostrich and stick my head in the sand. Except an ostrich would be likely to end up with a bunch of baby ostriches and I’d just mess up my makeup or lose an earring.
I realize it’s tough out there for home buyers right now. If they love a home, so will another . . . and another and another. That means some lucky sellers are receiving more than one offer for a home. Yet, this is absolutely a great time to buy a home because interest rates are positioned to rise on the horizon. On the downside, if a buyer’s offer contains anything out of the ordinary as compared to the other buyers — like maybe a contingency to sell an existing home — the buyer could be at a distinct disadvantage. To counteract this situation, some agents will write more than one offer for a buyer, even though it is frowned upon and could violate certain good faith contract laws.
The one thing an agent should not do, however, under any circumstances, is send two offers from the same buyer to the same Sacramento listing agent and, on top of it, include a note about how much the buyer LOVES the home. Ummm, which one does the buyer love? We don’t know. But I did receive 2 offers from an agent signed by the same buyers on two different listings. Guess the agent must have figured desperate times call for desperate measures; or, perhaps it temporarily slipped the agent’s mind that both listings are mine.
This is the same agent who called to ask how much the buyer had to offer to get the home. Well, the answer is I do not know. I am not the buyer, and I am not my seller. I can’t read my seller’s mind and, even if I did possess magical powers, I wouldn’t share that information. It’s privileged, covered under client fiduciary, in addition to it’s not fair to other agents. I need to treat all parties fairly. It’s in the Code of Ethics.
The agent moaned and said the agent would do it, and the agent’s general real estate practice is to often help other agents this way. Well, as a listing agent, the agent is only helping the agent who wins the offer, not all of the other agents. No point in explaining that as it’s not my place to educate; some agents would find it demeaning. But I did explain to the agent that we all work differently. My real estate business in Sacramento is undoubtedly unique compared to others. Some of us, apparently, adhere to desperate times call for desperate measures. I don’t tell agents how much to offer. That’s between agents and their buyers.
If you’re looking for an experienced agent to sell your home in the Sacramento Valley, call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Elizabeth consistently ranks in the top 1% of all Lyon and other agents.
They couldn’t have tried to trash an industry any better than the March issue of Consumer Reports. It seems to me that they didn’t interview enough people. The numbers are off. They say buyers care more about interest rates than buying a home because they got married or they need more space. Wha? They say an agent’s median fee is 4.2%, which might apply to a tiny real estate market in Idaho somewhere but certainly is way off in other markets.
If you ask Consumer Reports, it will tell you that they pulled the stats from real estate agents, not outta their butts. Below is their claim:
- Agents will steer buyers to homes yielding higher commissions: 32%
- Agents make exaggerated claims when marketing themselves: 30%
- Agents refuse to disclose structural problems: 26%
- Agents persuade sellers to sell for less than their homes are worth: 27%
The only thing they got right was when is the best time of the year to sell, which is April. They neglect to point out that homes selling in April tend to close in May. I wonder if they talked to any experienced real estate agents at all or just those with their feet up on the desk watching the homeless sleep in the park.
Who among us hasn’t thought at one time or another to lie, or hasn’t been tempted under certain circumstances to bend the truth? Would an agent lie? It’s normal to consider. The fact is most of us would not do it. Like last week I discovered a referral had closed escrow and the company that had referred the buyer to us was not paid. I use a tight system to track buyers but this one had slipped through, with the buyer’s agent forgetting to source the lead.
I looked at the buyer’s name. The name given to us by the referral company was slightly different than the name that had closed escrow. In fact, the referral company most likely would never track this referral. I could have just left it lie. Forgotten about it. Nobody would know. The thing is I would know. And I do know. And I agreed to pay that company, and that company should be paid, even after the fact. So, I contacted the referral company and arranged for payment. Also, fixed a hole in my referral business tracking so this kind of thing doesn’t occur a second time.
I believe that most agents are honest and ethical, and they would do the same thing under similar circumstances. But when a company is out to provide “insider advice,” sometimes the only way to do that is to paint an entire industry with a tainted brush and proclaim that everybody is a crook — create a little hysteria, even if the facts are wrong.
The real estate industry is such an easy target. We walk around with a bullseye drawn on our foreheads. I’m not sure Consumer Reports could recognize a real estate pro, though, if they found one. It’s a sorry day when we can’t even rely on Consumer Reports to get the facts straight.
An agent’s reputation should be fiercely maintained.
Successful agents, for example, are often slid under a microscope to study. Sometimes these agents are unjustly attacked by other real estate agents for stupid reasons, mostly because competitors become jealous. It’s the nasty underbelly of the real estate business and a silent consequence of success. Aspiring agents admire success but it can also be a tug-of-war internally for them. Regardless, we all need to treat each other with respect. As REALTORS, we must adhere to the Code of Ethics.
To be kind, some agents can experience, let’s say, a lapse of better judgment.
For me, I don’t look so much at what other people say when they screw up, I look at what they do. If a buyer’s agent calls me to talk about a client’s offer, spends a long time discussing the buyers’ love affair with the home but fails to mention that the agent has written a second offer for that buyer, well, not only is it considered unethical, but that kind of practice could be against the law. Buyers can’t buy two homes if they can’t afford to buy both. Lawyers can scream this until the cows come home and agents don’t listen.
As what happens in these types of problematic situations is both offers tend to get accepted. At that point, the buyer’s agent had another open window to say, hey, I have something to disclose. But no, the agent’s lips are zipped until the buyer bails on both accepted offers. Ordinarily, a listing agent wouldn’t even know this has happened, but when she discovers it — and the truth often manages to come out — she’s not the only person. Both sets of sellers know, and so do all of their friends. The people at title and escrow know. The other agent whose seller received a cancellation knows. All the people that agent knows know. And so on.
This is how a buyer’s agent’s reputation can turn into mud.
And for what? A pair of buyers who bailed on the buyer’s agent and decided not to even to move to Sacramento after all?
I am often called to a listing presentation in which a seller who is hoping to choose a Sacramento listing agent has interviewed 2 other agents. I say, hey, good agents you called. But you would be amazed at some of the stuff I hear other agents tell the seller. Because the sellers tell me what they say when the agents learn that Elizabeth Weintraub is the competition to their presentation. First, I imagine the agents feel a bit intimidated when they look at my sales production and how much I sell. It can be 10 times the number of homes they sell, or more. This is intimidating because these agents can’t fathom how in the world I do it and remain competitive, because they can’t do it.
So they say stuff like, oh, Elizabeth Weintraub is too busy for you and won’t give you personal service. These agents should be shot and stuffed with mouse poop for allowing lies like that to leave their lips. You want something done right, you give it to a busy person, that’s what I have to say. Clients tell me that I treat them like they are my only client. I respond immediately to their concerns and address all of their questions, sometimes before the questions are even asked. I make them feel special because they are. Nothing should lead a real estate agent to badmouth. They should be better than that.
In my world, every client is important. Every situation is different. Another agent told a seller that I don’t negotiate my own transactions because, how could I? Yet, I do. It’s a fat lie to say I don’t. I personally handle every single listing myself. I shoot professional photography; I write copy and prepare the paperwork; I tweak my photos in Photoshop; I manage all of my listings; I collect feedback and deliver, provide suggestions, negotiate multiple offers, and there is no pawning off — I do it myself. Just because another agent can’t do what I do is no reason to make up crap about my real estate practice. You know what they call that? They call that attitude sour grapes. The Code of Ethics calls it unethical. I call it idiot real estate agents who badmouth.
A new client I’m meeting with this weekend asked me why none of the other agents she talked to didn’t tell her the things I suggested she do to get started. Well, I don’t know why. It makes sense to me that I bring up potential problems and solve them before we go on the market. I have no idea why other agents do what they do; I know only what I do, and that is I perform to high standards built on my decades of experience. When the only bad thing another agent can makeup is I must be too busy or I must not do the work myself, well, that tells you more about those agents than about me.
I’m not too busy. I do the work myself. If you expect excellence, you will get it. That’s how an ethical Sacramento real estate agent stays in business and gets referrals year after year after year. Sellers can hire a not-so-successful agent for the same amount of money, but why?