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On Professionalism in the real estate sector

by Rock Lefevbre, FVREB COO

We often hear the term “professionalism” within organized real estate (ORE) – well, perhaps more of a call for increased professionalism. But what do we mean when we speak about professionalism?

In its purest sense, Merriam Webster defines it as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person”.

Okay, so what does that really mean some may ask? It means many things to many people, but if we had to describe it from a collective sense, it would be identified as the flawless conduct and performance of practitioners involved in the delivery of real estate services. Yes, the word “flawless” conjures up a near impossible state just as do other words like “perfect” or “excellence”, but that does not mean that it should not be pursued or ascribed to. That is what the FVREB encourages.

Conformity and compliance

In the context of organized real estate, we need recognize that professionalism will embody compliance with the laws of the land, including the Real Estate Services Act (RESA), Real Estate Council of British Columbia (RECBC) Rules, and other regulatory provisions taken also with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice, along with the jurisdictional Rules of Cooperation, the Board’s by-laws, and other provisions prescribed by other institutions an individual may be a member of.

Admittedly extensive in breadth, conformance with the structural components of ORE can be daunting without the trusted advisors who serve as managing brokers and instructors, for example. Encouragingly, technology has made much of this reference material easily and freely accessible.

On your road to mastering the regulatory environment and the best practices which accompany it, it’s also encouraging to know that professionalism also comes with some simpler behavioural expectations – you know the ones to which you might respond – of course, everyone knows that! Truth is though that Realtors®, while knowing these things do not always have – or take – the time (particularly in the hot 2020-2021 market) to exercise them. Moreover, those who do tend to be high market performers and long-time members.

Personal conduct and behaviour

Anecdotal evidence shows that consumers are most frustrated by:

  1. Poor communication. This seems to be the predominant complaint – for e.g., failure to respond to phone calls, untimely communication with others, or lack of feedback about viewings or the home itself.
  2. Improper pricing. Pricing the home just to get the listing frustrates multiple parties and contributes to potential stigma around a property, even after price correction.
  3. Unattractive/enhanced photos or mischaracterized descriptions. In essence, photos represent the first showing and poor images or descriptors that fall short or mislead would-be buyers only serve to erode trust.
  4. Insufficient or misguided marketing. MLS ‘post and prey’ is not an adequate strategy in this age nor is disproportionate reliance on open houses to appease clients’ wishes.
  5. Poor negotiating skills. Emphasis on getting the sale done at all costs rather than serving client needs creates a negative reputation.
  6. Inability to explain agreements, documents, and processes. While REALTORs® are not real estate lawyers, they should be able to explain real estate terms, documents and legal agreements for clients in plain language. When an agent appears overly confused by these things and/or unable to tell the buyer or seller what they contain, discomfort results. Further, telling the client that ‘this is standard’ can invite skepticism.
  7. Insensitivity to client stresses. Real estate transactions are high-price, high-tension events with great stakes – no one wants to sign something they do not understand and may regret later. Not understanding real estate terms and appreciating a client’s need for comfort is a sure-fire way to call a REALTOR’s® abilities into question.
  8. Lack of chemistry between client and Realtor. WALK AWAY!
  9. General lack of professionalism. This flows from any or all of the above but can also include attire, promptness, responsiveness, acumen, and intuitiveness.

In closing, the takeaway is that professionalism includes both professional conduct (as prescribed by regulation and published guidance) and personal behaviour (more analogous to common courtesy).

Perhaps not so daunting after all…