Image is Everything

Illinois REALTOR® Magazine | July 2013

Image is Everything

What you can do to make yourself a trusted and credible expert

By Stephanie Sievers, Associate Editor

professional business womanREALTOR® Deb Campbell has some advice for agents who think that because they have gotten busier in the rebounding market they can let slide some of the professional courtesies they should show the public and their peers.

Think again, says Campbell, a broker with Concept Real Estate in Columbia, Ill. Professionalism has never been more important. How REALTORS® approach their jobs and present themselves to the public can shape their reputation, both good and bad.\

“Being a professional is very important. That’s what we build our reputation on,” Campbell said. “If you don’t follow the rules, you won’t be trusted.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, which establishes the enforceable standards of professional conduct for REALTORS®. But “professionalism” encompasses more than following the Code.

For REALTOR® Chris Read, managing broker of CR REALTOR® in Naperville, presenting yourself as a professional covers three tiers: business skills, ethics and professional courtesy.

“Professionalism is a decision that every individual makes,” she said. “What level of service do you want to provide? What kind of image of yourself do you want to put out there?”

Consumers will gravitate toward the trusted advisor who is going to provide a value proposition to the transaction and part of that includes having the knowledge, skills, trust and image that people want to be associated with, said Read, who is vice chair of IAR’s Professional Standards Committee.

Deb CampbellDeb’s Tips:

  • If you know you are going to be late to an appointment with another agent, contact them directly and promptly.
  • If you get to a listing and something seems amiss, call the listing agent immediately.
  • Be respectful of other agents, and property owners, when it comes to following the rules for lockboxes and sharing codes.

Professionalism takes a strong skill set

In the past, REALTORS® were the keepers of information and consumers came to them for access and information on homes and the market, Read said. But today, buyers and sellers have so much information at their fingertips that the REALTOR® role has changed.

Now they want someone who can help them wade through all that information and put it into context. They want a REALTOR® who knows the industry, knows the market and knows the community, Read said.

“There’s a huge amount of homework and preparation in order to have the level of professionalism that the consumer is going to expect and demand in today’s world”

Part of being professional, Read says, is keeping up and staying current with what is happening in the industry. REALTOR® education courses and designations are important but so too is staying on top of real estate news and trends. That also includes being an expert on your local community and real estate market.

“You have to earn your reputation with every single new person that you are dealing with,” Read said. “You have to be on top of your game every time.”

Chris ReadChris’ Tips:

  • Offices can take greater care in training new agents on professional behavior. REALTORS® reflect the company they work for so hiring and training professional agents feeds into that image.
  • Continue learning to become the market expert today’s buyers demand.
  • Respect the public and your peers and take responsibility for the properties you are showing.

Professionalism means practicing the “Golden Rule”

You can never go wrong by treating your clients and other REALTORS® the way you would want to be treated, REALTOR® Mike Drews said. Not only is it good business practice, but good common sense.

If you don’t have a good business relationship with people, chances are you’re not going to get more business, said Drews, a broker with Charles B. Doss & Co. in Oswego. It doesn’t matter if you do one transaction a year or 200. What matters is making sure you do each transaction in a professional manner.

“You don’t get a chance in the real estate business to do something over,” Drews said. “If you’ve messed up a transaction, it could have a lasting effect on your business, your reputation and whether or not you get referred down the line.”

The National Association of REALTORS® has outlined a list of professional courtesies that REALTORS® can follow in the document, Pathways to Professionalism, which includes tips for respecting the public, property and their peers.

Drews, who has chaired IAR’s Professional Standards Committee three times and is a member of NAR’s Professional Standards Committee, said REALTORS® and brokerage companies would be well served by reviewing the Pathways to Professionalism more often. Scan it before you meet with a new client or refer to it in office sales meetings.

The Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® produced a video that became a popular training tool highlighting key elements of professional courtesy. NAR recently remade the video, “A Pathway to Professional Conduct” featuring some of the same Chicagoland area REALTORS®. 

Mike DrewsMike’s Tips:

  • Revisit the “Pathways to Professionalism” often. Review the list frequently. Use it as a refresher before going on appointments. Offices could use it in monthly sales meetings.
  • Stay professional even if someone on the other end isn’t following suit.
  • Speak up if necessary. If you see a fellow agent behaving badly, talk to them. Be polite but let them know their behavior was not professional.

Professionalism means paying attention to detail

Sometimes it’s the little things that can make a difference. If you know you are going to be late to an appointment, let the other person know. Follow through with providing feedback on a listing. If you are showing a listing, make sure the sellers know, but also alert them if plans change.

The market may be picking up but that is no excuse for agents to ignore professional courtesies. Your actions on the job not only reflect you but also other agents and the industry as a whole.

If you view a listing with your buyer and wait a week to respond with feedback, or don’t respond at all, the seller wonders why the listing agent can’t get information and it impacts their perspective of the transaction, Campbell said. The same is true when there is miscommunication and sellers aren’t notified that a showing appointment has been made and they are surprised to find a potential buyer on their doorstep.

You wouldn’t cancel a doctor’s appointment without contacting someone. Why should it be different if
your buyers change their mind at the last minute about touring a property, Drews asks. It just leaves the impression on sellers that the agent isn’t being professional in business.

“Most of the problems that come up between REALTORS® and even the public come down to communication,” said REALTOR® Laura Martin of RE/MAX Unlimited in Peoria. “Always return a phone call even if it’s for simple things like letting them know you don’t have an answer yet.”

No one wants to be “that agent,”  with a reputation for not following up, missing appointments and not communicating. People have long memories and if a  transaction goes well with another REALTOR®, you and your clients will remember it. If it goes badly that will leave an impression as well.

Laura MartinLaura’s Tips:

  • Don’t treat the seller’s home like your own. Take your shoes off when entering. Supply potential buyers with plastic booties if they won’t. Don’t let visiting children play with the toys in the home.
  • After you show a listing, leave it the way you found it. Turn off lights, shut doors, check that windows and doors that should be locked have been.
  • Don’t let buyers in a home without an agent present.

REALTOR® Lauren Mitrick, a broker with Newman Realty in Chicago, said she wants to be the REALTOR® who when other agents see her on the listing sheet, are excited to work with her again.

“I’m helping someone with one of the biggest decisions they are going to make in their life,” Mitrick said. “I would want to make that big decision with someone who is detail-oriented, diligent and professional in all capacities.”

Professionalism and a REALTORS®’ reputation are their calling card in what is often a referral-based business. How you present yourself to the public and your peers reflects not just on you but on the industry as a whole.

“I think it makes it a smoother, less stressful process for buyers and sellers when we’re all professional. The public has their own perception of what our industry is and I like to pleasantly surprise them.” says Martin.

“Often we hear, ‘why use a REALTOR®?’” Let’s give them the reason why through our actions.”

Lauren MitrickLauren’s Tips:

  • Dress for success. Look pulled together when you meet with clients. Don’t show up in gym clothes during off-hour showings. Don’t have dirty shoes, chipped nails or other fashion faux pas. You want your appearance to reflect your professionalism, not serve as a distraction.
  • Keep your car clean. Your clients won’t think you’re organized if they get into your car and find listing sheets, trash and crumbs everywhere. Also keep the trunk tidy as clients may put bags in the back.
  • Be mindful of what you post online. You’ll be working with clients of all age groups. Be cautious about photos and information you post on Facebook and other social media and make sure it reflects well on you professionally.

A word from IAR Legal Hotline Attorney Betsy Urbance

As the IAR Legal Hotline Attorney, I hear our members sometimes air their grievances about their colleagues’ less than professional behavior.  As a result, I have compiled a list of “simple suggestions” that could be employed in a broker’s everyday practice to foster cooperation and congeniality:

  1. Respond in a timely manner (even if you don’t have a definitive answer yet).
  2. Be transparent to the extent possible (without disclosing your client’s confidential information).
  3. Encourage your seller client to sign something indicating he has at least seen an offer, even ifhe is rejecting it or taking no action.
  4. Be mindful about protecting your client’s confidential information, even in your own office. It is your duty to do so.
  5. Remember that your client’s interests take priority over your own.
  6. Announce everyone who is in attendance before speaking if you are on a conference call or Web meeting/call; or before you transfer a call to speaker.
  7. Say “please” and “thank you.”

Note: Most REALTORS® don’t need these reminders and follow these simple suggestions already.  But since this is “Focus on Professionalism” month, we are posting them at this time.


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July 2013

July 2013 cover

“You don’t get a chance in the real estate business to do something over. If you’ve messed up a transaction, it could have a lasting effect on your business, your reputation and whether or not you get referred down the line.” - REALTOR® Mike Drews

Pathways to Professionalism