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The Realtor Party, Part II: The Implied Accusation, and Other (Missed?) Opportunities

While Greg Swann takes on the big thinker issues behind the proposed Realtor Party Political Survival Initiative, I’m pondering a more microscopic view- how might this affect the relationship between my clients and me. Maybe not at all. I have no reason to believe that the public will think much about it, at least for a few years, and they may even like it. So what’s the harm?

We know that REALTORs rank along side used car salesmen, lawyers, politicians, and Stuff You Scrap Off Your Shoe when it comes to public opinion polls. As an industry, we are not trusted. At this point in time, our industry is widely considered a necessary evil. Why should that be? We have a Code of Ethics. Doesn’t that make us all, I don’t know, ethical? Our image problem is so pervasive and institutionalized that millions of dollars go toward advertising to get the word out that we are professionals. So how does the Realtor Party solve that? It doesn’t. In fact, it makes things worse. The reason (as in one reason) given for the RPPSI is that as an industry we need to compete with other self-interests. This benefits our image how?

So, I’m thinking… What if? What if we turned away from that? What if we stopped wrestling with pigs and the dirty business of politics? What if instead of more politics, we opened our eyes to the extraordinary opportunity in front of us?

This site is a treasure trove and one of my favorite posts is, The Implied Accusation in real estate: How to win the war on your attitude… It’s not over dramatizing to say that this post changed the way I communicate with clients. In fact, I’ve printed parts of it to give to my clients, who also love it. In part:

The Implied Accusation is the underground river flowing through every unhappy relationship. To address good and evil, all you have to do is bring things out into the open. But after a while, there is simply too much to go through, too much that is too shameful to be cheerfully borne and revisited. Nothing lives underground, but nothing ever really dies, either, its just rots, becoming its own graveyard. In the end, it becomes easier to destroy the relationship than to go to all the work necessary to repair it.

Here is The Implied Accusation in real estate: “Realtors are stupid.” “Realtors are corrupt.” “Realtors are lazy.” “Realtors are self-serving.” “Realtors will say anything to make a deal.” These ideas are epidemic, a cultural undercurrent.

You know these charges are untrue, but what do you do about them? To leave The Implied Accusation unnamed, unaddressed is to seem to confess to it, or at least to plead no contest. Your clients begin their relationship with you with unstated doubts about your integrity, and you hope to counter those attitudes by your behavior.

This is not enough. You have to make the issue explicit. You have to make every bit of it explicit, and not just once. At any point in your relationship with a client — possibly years after a transaction has closed — you may have to address The Implied Accusation. When, specifically? When there arises the possibility of a colorable doubt about your motives. The trouble is not that your client might complain, but, rather, that he might not complain and yet walk away from your relationship feeling aggrieved.

Back to the grunt on the ground level. What if we said no to RPPSI? What if we saw in ourselves the opportunity to rise above politics, step away from politics as usual. What if we grabbed this as our chance to once and for all collectively say out loud to our clients,

“The most important point I want to convey to you is that I intend to work for you as if you were a member of my own family. If my mother were buying a home, if my sister were selling, if my son were getting his first condo, not one of them could expect better service from me than I plan to give to you.

“Why do I work that way? I believe in doing the right thing, no matter what, and that’s my overriding reason. But the fact is, if I treat you the way you want to be treated, you’ll bring all your future business to me, and you’ll refer all your friends and family to me. Furthermore, I incur a legal liability when I represent you in a real estate transaction. I’ve never been sued, and, god help me, I never will be. But my best protection against getting sued is to do right by you in the first place.

“I make my living effecting real estate transactions, and I don’t get paid until every step of the process is completed. But my legal and moral obligation to my clients eclipses every other interest in my life, including my own self-interest. I want for you to be happy at the end of this process — no matter how it ends. I want for you to be delighted with the work I’ve done for you, even if we end up not buying or selling a house. You are my client now, and I want you to be my client forever. I want to do everything that is right for you, first and always. And I want for you to bring me all your business — you and everyone you know. And I want for you never to feel the need to sue me. The moral is the practical, always, no matter what business we do — or don’t do — right now.

“Why am I saying all this to you? For two reasons: To make it explicit, and so you can feel comfortable holding me accountable to it. These are the terms on which I do business with everyone, and this little speech is your warranty that I will do business with you this way, as well.”

Dear NAR, It seems to me that you have a real chance here to rise above. This is your time to face the implied accusation head on. This is your opportunity to begin to right the wrongs of the past; to heal wounds, to repair the damage you’ve been a willing party to, and to make us proud…

If you make your moral code explicit — in real estate or in your life as a whole — and then live up to that moral code, you will be unassailable. The moral is the practical. We do well by doing good. And virtue — properly understood and properly effected — is all the reward you could ever want…

I want to be proud of this organization and this industry. I want to know that the NAR is the largest champion of private property rights- all private property rights- in the world. That our moral code is beyond reproach, and people anywhere in the world can look to the NAR for how to protect themselves (their property) from coercive forces…. Sigh. Otherwise, Dear NAR, now more than ever before, you will not speak for me.

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