Stuart Brody a long time friend is in the midst of teaching a class at SUNY New Paltz on “Ethics and Integrity” to undergraduate business school students. Recently we talked at length about political examples of compromising personal convictions to increase approval ratings to get re-elected or politicians that vote for legislation that favors financial supporters to hopefully get re-elected. We all know that the reality of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” is rampant in our political system for sponsoring bills and exchanging votes. I am quite sure I will never be a politician, all this pandering and keeping track of who I would owe favors to would just not work for me. So what kind of ethical dilemmas occur in the business of selling real estate? I believe popular opinion would say real estate agents will do anything to make a sale, I personally feel you cannot “sell” anyone anything if they don’t want it.
I told Stuart that for me the ethical responsibility to my clients, the public and other Realtors is so clear. I rarely have a moment that I need to give a second thought on how to respond in any situation. These are some of my simple rules when communicating with clients: 1. Always tell the truth, no matter how hard it is to say. 2. Always give advice that is in the clients best interest and put that interest above all others especially your own. 3. Communicate clearly and in a timely manner 4. Anticipate the needs of the client and provide resources and information that help them make informed and educated decisions.
David and Walter were clients who purchased a small home on Meads Mountain Road in Woodstock, NY about fifteen years ago. Whenever we saw each other they reminded me that I helped preserve their sanity by selling them the little chalet, it was their quiet weekend retreat from two high stress jobs in NYC. About eight years ago they wanted to spend more time upstate and needed a bigger house, “what can we get for our house” and “what do we need to spend on a new one”? I researched what they wanted, discussed property values and I gave a very clear picture of what the transition would cost them. No problem with the money, these were dream clients, they trusted me and we both knew I could make it happen. While searching for their new home a thought kept reoccuring that they already had the perfect spot so why try to duplicate it, maybe, they could just add on. I suggested I set up a few meetings with a few architects and builders just so they could explore the idea before we got too involved in a new search. It soon became apparent that the cost of adding on to the house would be less than the cost of moving. I also proved the value of their expanded home would increase substantially. It ended up a win win since they got exactly what they wanted and it cost less than moving. Last year David and Walter did sell their house and moved to Florida but they had 8 years of bliss in their magical spot. And they never stopped thanking me for coming up with the idea. This was not an ethical dilemma but a moral one. As soon as the thought jumped into my head it would have been wrong of me not to discuss it.
Each client has a new challenge , I ask myself “what is the best possible outcome” given the circumstances as I know them, I always will say what I think no matter consequences. If I help someone come to a conclusion that helps them even if it has no monetary benefit to me I never think twice. My business has grown from a two person office to the most successful company in Ulster and Greene counties in NY. I really believe much of its success is teaching, preaching and holding onto the values I adopted 20 years ago. To all my clients past and present “its always, all about you”.