Whenever I speak to real estate boards and brokers of record, I like to remind them that consumer protection is a shared responsibility between the provincial real estate regulator and the profession.
In Canada’s largest province, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) does a lot to help maintain strong public trust in the provincial real estate marketplace, but that trust largely depends upon the conduct of RECO’s 86,000 registrants: salespeople, brokers and brokerages.
The industry leaders I’ve met are eager to work with RECO to raise the bar of professionalism, and they often ask me about recommended best practices for their staff. With that in mind, I offer these five tips that will help you build a great reputation in the industry and among consumers.
1. Inform your clients about their rights and responsibilities.
The best real estate salespeople are those who teach clients about their rights and responsibilities and walk them through every line of text on any document they’re asked to sign, explaining in plain language what everything means. It’s the only way a consumer can make an informed decision. They’re the kind of salespeople who demonstrate their value to satisfied clients and get positive word-of-mouth referrals. They’re also the kind of salespeople that other professionals like to deal with and you would want to represent someone you care about.
Even if you don’t work in Ontario, I encourage you to visit the RECO website and look inside the Registrant Toolkit. You’ll find videos, documents and social media infographics that registrants can personalize and share with their clients.
2. Stay in touch with your province’s real estate regulator.
Does your provincial real estate regulator have your current contact information, and are you receiving all of its notifications?
Earlier this year, some registrants informed RECO they may have missed important notifications because certain emails were mistakenly sent to “spam or junk” folders. Thankfully, that problem was fixed a few months ago, but it is always a good idea to check your spam folder now and then and ask your coworkers if they have received anything from the regulator. Email messaging is critical for keeping salespeople and brokers up to date on their education, registration, insurance and regulatory compliance requirements, and to communicate with registrants regarding inspections and disciplinary matters.
3. Take advantage of professional development opportunities.
Employers, consumers, regulators and the profession as a whole expect salespeople and brokers to upgrade their skills and knowledge through continuing education. The world is changing quickly, and the best know they must keep up or they will be left behind. It is not enough to simply do the minimum mandatory training. You have to seek out other opportunities.
Regulators across the country help registrants stay up to date on issues by publishing various communications around topical issues. In Ontario, that currently includes topics such as commission claw backs, the proper use of lockboxes and the rules governing advertising and social media use in the industry. RECO, like many regulators across the country, provides customized presentations that give members the opportunity to ask questions.
If you’re in Ontario and your board hasn’t contacted RECO to request a presentation, you may want to suggest it to them as a worthwhile professional development initiative.
4. Share your thoughts.
I can’t speak on behalf of real estate regulators in other provinces, but my colleagues at RECO and I always appreciate hearing honest and candid feedback from hard-working salespeople and brokers. If you have a great idea to raise the bar of professionalism, I hope you will speak your mind and share it.
That’s why I encourage learners to take a few minutes to fill out the feedback survey that’s included in every RECO Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) course. We need to hear from salespeople and brokers like you in order to make continual improvements to the MCE program.
5. Make it clear that unethical or unprofessional behaviour won’t be tolerated at your brokerage and report serious misconduct to your provincial regulator.
Even a single case of misconduct can poison the public’s perception of the profession. If there’s somebody in your office who isn’t showing up for appointments or not treating consumers respectfully, tell them their behaviour is inappropriate and hold them accountable for improving it. If you believe they’re breaking the law, tell your broker of record and your provincial regulator so the matter can be investigated and appropriate action can be taken.
By following these five tips, you can help us maintain strong public trust in the real estate industry. We all have a role to play.