By Christopher Seepe

What one word uniquely identifies an unethical, self-serving and/or negligent real estate professional?

We’ve all met Realtors who we feel should not have been licensed without a more thorough assessment of their propriety and morals. We know they aren’t acting in their client’s best interest, perhaps for reasons including financial pressures, lack of experience, poor training and skills or self-serving interests.

This last category perhaps bears the brunt of the wrath of most other Realtors. This (low) class of Realtor erodes the public’s assessment of and confidence in our industry’s professionalism, which Canadian organized real estate has so far failed to resolve.

To be able to instantly identify with a prevalent issue, current event or even a product, we create easily remembered “catchy” names and phrases. We have brand names, trademarks, jingles, mottos, taglines and even monikers for serial killers like Jack the Ripper.

For centuries, everyone – well, at least every woman – knew about men (mostly) hounding women for sexual favours in return for some offered benefit to the woman, who was otherwise punished if she declined. But without a name for the issue, no one discussed it. It couldn’t be defined as a problem and then resolved. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the phrase “sexual harassment” was coined. When it was finally given a name, the issue was forced into the open and became top of mind, especially in the media. Now we have legislation, a code of conduct, corporate governance and a body of social studies. It’s no longer “overlooked” and it is simply not acceptable behaviour.

One might say that a person’s reality is defined by the scope of their vocabulary. How do you tell someone to go and buy champagne unless you have a name for it? But does the concept of champagne even exist in the reality of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who live on two dollars a day?

Pop culture creates new words every day – tweet, cougar, Google things, bootylicious, Skype people, slag someone, selfie. The operative purpose of the name is instant recognition and cognitive association with the intended subject or action without a lengthy preamble or explanation.

So, what one word could uniquely identify an unethical, self-serving and/or negligent real estate professional? I propose the contraction “realturd”, defined as, “A person, more commonly (and incorrectly) known as a real estate agent, who acts negligently as an agent for the lease, sale or purchase of buildings and land without duty and care to their clients, acting selfishly in their own interests.”

And before more conservative readers get their shorts in a knot, defines turd as, “1. a piece of excrement; 2. a mean, contemptible person.” Is turd a swear word? That’s debated extensively on the Internet. Like thousands of other words, it can be a rude word depending on its implied (or inferred) use.

While the character of self-serving people is not necessarily mean or contemptible, their actions most certainly are, especially if they violate the (fiduciary) trust their client placed in them by placing their own interests above their client’s. Doing so dramatically negatively impacts the public’s perception of our industry’s professionalism, arguably the single most pressing issue in Canadian real estate today. Solve the professionalism issue and many other major issues will lessen or disappear.

People handle and express their discontent in different ways; some rudely, some politely. Venting remains an on-going debate as does the use of swear words on public airwaves. If one believes that feelings indicate what is important to us, then verbal venting is atonement to our feelings to guide us in choosing what we say. “Realturd” is intended to be condescending and offensive like any “swear” word. It’s a comprehensive one-word assessment by the speaker of the recipient’s credibility, professionalism, values, morals and character. Such recipients may not care about the name-calling but it’s not about them. It’s about their reputation, which often precedes a real estate professional.

If the Realtor recipient doesn’t care about their reputation then they’re in the wrong business anyway and won’t be around long. Unfortunately, each realturd still takes our industry reputation down a notch. One rarely hears the professionalism called into question of doctors, dentists, engineers, surveyors and other such professionals and industries but how truly proud are most Canadian Realtors about their industry as a whole?

There are always reasons why wise sayings come into existence. They’re most often based on insightful observations about human behaviour. The early bird gets the worm but the contrarian second mouse gets the cheese.

How well has politeness and complacency served us with the people who failed to rein in the culprits in the first place? Perhaps a new strategy should be the squeaky wheel gets the grease.