The quality-of-service pendulum swings with too wide an arc in the real estate industry. A number of organizations are trying to do something about it.
The Board of Directors of the National Association of REALTORS took steps last week to "increase the professionalism of the real estate industry and to position Realtors for challenges in the years ahead."
"The board approved updates to the association's voluntary guide to professional courtesies, called Pathways to Professionalism. The guide includes such suggestions as scheduling appointments in advance, calling when you're delayed for an appointment, and promising only what you can deliver. It also recommends that Realtors identify their status as Realtors in all contacts with other members and the public.
Pathways to Professionalism currently reads as follows:
I. Respect for the Public.
- Always follow the "Golden Rule".
- Always respond promptly to inquiries and request for information.
- Schedule appointments as far in advance as possible; call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment.
- Always schedule property showings in advance.
- If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the owner.
- Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
- Enter listed property first to ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
- Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules.
- Never criticize property in the presence of the owner.
- Inform sellers that you are leaving after showing.
- When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock before entering. Knock before entering any closed room.
- Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and have a clean car.
- If the seller is home during a showing, ask their permission before using the bathroom or phone.
- Advise the client of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
- Communicate clearly; don't use jargon not readily understood by the general public.
- Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
- Show courtesy and respect to the general public.
- Be aware of and meet all deadlines.
- Promise only what you can deliver and keep your promises.
II. Respect for Property
- Be responsible for visitors to listed property; never allow buyers to enter property if unaccompanied.
- When the seller is absent, be sure to turn off lights, shut windows, and lock doors after a showing.
- Tell the buyers not to smoke in listed property.
- Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside the listing.
- When a property is vacant, check that heating and cooling controls are set correctly and check the outside of the property for damage or vandalism.
III. Respect for Peers.
- Call the listing broker to report the results of any showing.
- Notify the listing broker immediately if anything appears wrong with the property.
- Notify the listing broker if there appears to be inaccurate information on the listing.
- Share important information about a property, including the presence of pets; security systems; and whether sellers will be present during the showing.
- Show courtesy, trust and respect to other real estate professionals.
Several years ago, Larry Romito, president, founded the Quality Service Certification, Inc., designed to help real estate practitioners become more consumer-focused. His idea was to get brokers to take the emphasis for rewards off agent production and to put it on customer service.
The Quality Service Certification training program designed by Romito promoted a new standard of service and professional accountability with specific procedures to follow for the delivery of better service.
"Customer satisfaction gives brokers a more powerful tool for recruiting, building revenues and controlling expenses," Romito told Realty Times in 2000. "Being held accountable will help agents produce better results."
In 2001, the National Association of Realtors established a policy requiring that all members complete an ethics course. By the end of the calendar year 2004, all members of the National Association of Realtors must successfully complete a two-and-a-half hour course in ethics.
Concluding that adopting new real estate standards must be a grassroots movement in order to impact the industry at large, over 50 Realtor associations contributed ideas for standards and over $126,000 in seed money to help the Real Estate Standards Institute establish new best practices. The result is the Touchstone for Excellence, a real estate standards based on best practices that go beyond state licensing minimums of professional behavior and customer care.
Why the focus on standards now? According to the Touchstone for Excellence "history," when the brokerage industry became more agent-centric, it was more difficult for brokers to oversee the actions of agents.
"At a time when customers say they want a reliable, dependable, consistent home buying or selling experience, the industry is hard-pressed to provide one," it suggests.