When a colleague is under fire: Do you help or do you hinder?

by Dennis Wilson, Manager, Professional Standards

By now you have likely heard about the two Fraser Valley members who have been unwittingly thrown into a media and public firestorm. They were doing something that REALTORS® have done forever, which is to go door-to-door to introduce themselves and provide real estate information to members of their community. They met a very nice gentleman at the door who discussed when he had purchased his home and what he thought the value could be today. The REALTORS® showed him some information and said they thought it could even be higher. Would he like them to do a full evaluation? It was at that point the gentleman replied it would have to wait as he had just lost his wife. This was the first time they had heard about this. They expressed their sympathy and left.

After sharing their real estate expertise with an interested party, these members found out that the family is going through a terrible time. Out of respect and empathy, their follow-up communication was a sympathy card with a hand written note, “So sorry to hear of your wife’s passing, please let us know if we can help in any way with your real estate needs when the time is right” along with the inclusion of business cards. Business cards are always recommended to ensure we disclose that we are licensed agents and identify our brokerage.

I have the greatest sympathy for this family. It is a very difficult time. I can appreciate how the message and business cards could be misconstrued. I can also appreciate the genuine intent behind the card.

Without context or opportunity to explain, the card was shared on social media and within hours the response from mainstream media, the public and fellow REALTORS® was incredible.

Much of it hurtful; some of it hateful.

Even after explaining and profusely apologizing to the family, the vicious and aggressive comments just kept coming.

I do not criticize members of the public for their comments as in isolation, the card could have been misunderstood.

What does concern me is the unjust and in some cases cruel commentary from fellow REALTORS® who jumped on the “public bandwagon” before even understanding the context of what really happened. Article 19 of the REALTOR® Code states that you shall not comment in a derogatory manner or publicly discredit a fellow REALTOR®. The REALTOR® Code also states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

We all understand how these situations reflect terribly on the real estate profession and hate to see it happen. I have handled multiple media interviews on this very issue.

However, the major lesson I’d like to impress upon all of us is that when a fellow professional is under fire, you need to know all the facts before you speak. And when you do speak, ask yourself if you’re helping or hindering the profession.

Part of being a professional is doing your homework, ensuring that you are informed, abiding by the Code and having respect for your fellow members.

We’re all in this profession together and it’s only together that we can raise the bar and make it better. Let’s learn from this and move forward with our heads high.