Several years ago I told you about the National Association of Realtors’ attempt in shifting consumer attitude towards Realtors. They are pivoting away from selling Realtor integrity, to selling Realtor value. In 2014, the NAR voted on creating a Code of Excellence to demonstrate competency. It wasn’t until this past November that the NAR approved a framework of competencies for agents to achieve. The eagerly anticipated implementation will allow Realtors to assess and grow their skills and knowledge in many aspects of the business of real estate. But this Commitment to Excellence, as it is named, may help Realtors increase their competency; but in the end, just like being proficient in the Code of Ethics, it will likely fall short in building consumer trust. The NAR should promote on Realtor authenticity.
Having agents commit to more training is a good idea in building competency among real estate practitioners. However, research has demonstrated that showing off accolades and awards doesn’t instill value, nor does it increase sales (Valsesia, Nunes, & Ordanini: What Wins Awards Is Not Always What I Buy: How Creative Control Affects Authenticity and Thus Recognition (But Not Liking). Journal of Consumer Research. Apr2016, Vol. 42 Issue 6, p897-914).
Realtors have a trust gap. And a badge indicating competency and a Commitment to Excellence won’t bridge that gap. The business of residential real estate is likened to a game of smoke and mirrors. Instead of encouraging Realtor authenticity, agents are often taught techniques of persuasion to increase sales. Many agents devise gimmicks and expensive marketing materials to entice you to do business with them. Even before you meet with a real estate agent, they are likely scheming how to gain your trust. Whether or not they earn it is an entirely different matter.
Instead of creating another Realtor badge, designation or code, the NAR should consult with James Gilmour and Joseph Pine II (of the Strategic Horizons LLP). The title of their 2007 groundbreaking book sums it up nicely: “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want.” Realtor authenticity is sorely lacking in the industry, and it’s not just the NAR; it stems from the brokers who train real estate agents as well. In order for Realtors to build trust, they need to be authentic.
A brief 2004 article by Michael Angier (Authenticity Matters: Are you the real McCoy; Sales & Service Excellence Essentials. Vol. 4 Issue 9, p10) highlighted the necessity for authenticity in the sales environment. He stated that “People like to do business with people they like. And they like people who are like themselves… Buyers today are savvy. They have more choices. And they can tell whether the company and the people in it are congruent. They seek out, resonate with and tend to be loyal to companies that are authentic. Your uniqueness and the things you’re best at doing are part of your differentiating position. It’s who you are—your identity. It’s what people can relate to. If there’s anything false, made up or covered over, your prospects will sense it. And they can’t even tell you why they didn’t buy…” Realtor authenticity would certainly positively affect client satisfaction.
Realtor authenticity will not only build trust but can also increase sales. And indeed, a 2006 research article by Allen Schaefer and Charles Pettijohn (The Relevance Of Authenticity In Personal Selling: Is Genuineness An Asset Or Liability? Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice. Vol. 14 Issue 1, p25-35) confirms that authenticity is related to sales performance. Their results indicated that salespeople who felt more authentic in their roles performed at higher levels and had a higher commitment to “personal selling.”
What do you think? Below is the framework of the Commitment to Excellence Program as adopted by the NAR is below (from nar.realtor/policy/commitment-to-excellence). It seems to me that Realtors should already be striving to be competent in these areas:
1) Being current and knowledgeable about the laws, regulations and legislation affecting the real estate disciplines the REALTOR® engages in, and about real estate in their community generally.
2) Understanding the Code of Ethics is a living document, and keeping themselves informed about its duties and obligations on an ongoing basis.
3) Providing equal professional services to all consistent with Article 10 of the Code of Ethics.
4) Advocating for property ownership rights in their community, state and nation.
5) Acknowledging and valuing that honesty and integrity are fundamental and essential to REALTORS® being known as consumers’ trusted advisors.
6) Becoming and remaining proficient in the use of technology tools to provide the highest levels of service to clients, customers and the public, and facilitating cooperation by sharing accurate, current information with consumers and with other real estate professionals.
7) Keeping up-to-date on laws and regulations governing data privacy and data security, and taking necessary and appropriate steps to safeguard the privacy and integrity of information entrusted to them.
8) Committing themselves to enhancing their knowledge and skills in the real estate areas of practice they engage in on an ongoing basis.
9) Providing superior customer service.
10) Appreciating that courtesy, timely communication and cooperation are fundamental to facilitating successful real estate transactions, and to building and maintaining an impeccable professional reputation.
11) As a broker-owner or principal of a real estate company, being committed to creating and maintaining an environment that promotes excellent customer service consistent with these standards.
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.