Pathways to Professionalism

Pathways to Professionalism

While the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association establishes objective, enforceable ethical standards governing the professional conduct of REALTORS®, it does not address issues of courtesy or etiquette. Based on input from many sources, the Professional Conduct Working Group of the Professional Standards Committee developed the following list of professional courtesies for use by REALTORS®.


1. Follow the “Golden Rule” – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2. Respond promptly to inquiries and requests for information.
3. Schedule appointments and showings as far in advance as possible.
4. Call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment or showing.
5. If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the occupant.
6. Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
7. When entering a property, ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
8. Leave your business card. Do not leave behind business cards that contain advertisement.
9. Never criticize property in the presence of the occupant.
10. Inform occupants that you are leaving after showings.
11. When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock—and announce yourself loudly—before entering. Knock and announce yourself loudly before entering any closed room.
12. Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and drive a clean car.
13. If occupants are home during showings, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.
14. Encourage the clients of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
15. Communicate clearly; don’t use jargon or slang that may not be readily understood.
16. Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
17. Show courtesy and respect to everyone.
18. Be aware of—and meet—all deadlines.
19. Promise only what you can deliver—and keep your promises.
20. Identify your REALTOR® and your professional status in contacts with the public.
21. Do not tell people what you think—tell them what you know.


1. Be responsible for everyone you allow to enter listed property.
2. Never allow buyers to enter listed property unaccompanied. Never give out a lock box combination.
3. When showing property, keep all members of the group together.
4. Never allow unaccompanied access to property without permission.
5. Enter property only with permission even if you have a lockbox key or combination. Alert the listing agent immediately if the lock box does not open or malfunctions.
6. When the occupant is absent, leave the property as you found it (lights, heating, cooling, drapes, etc.). If you think something is amiss (e.g. vandalism) contact the listing broker immediately.
7. Be considerate of the seller’s property. Do not allow anyone to eat, drink, smoke, dispose of trash, use bathing or sleeping facilities, or bring pets. Leave the house as you found it unless instructed otherwise.
8. Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside property. Consider the use of shoe covers in inclement weather.
9. Politely remind parents to keep track of their children’s activities as children can wander unoccupied, or handle the sellers’ personal property.


1. Identify your REALTOR® and professional status in all contacts with other REALTORS®.
2. Respond to other agents’ calls, faxes, and e-mails promptly and courteously.
3. Be aware that large electronic files with attachments or lengthy faxes may be a burden on recipients.
4. Notify the listing broker if there appears to be inaccurate information on the listing.
5. Share important information about a property, including the presence of pets; security systems; and whether sellers will be present during the showing.
6. Show courtesy, trust and respect to other real estate professionals.
7. Avoid the inappropriate use of endearments or other denigrating language.
8. Do not prospect at other REALTORS® open houses or similar events.
9. Return keys promptly.
10. Promptly provide showing reports to the listing agent.
11. Carefully replace keys in the lockbox after showings.
12. To be successful in the business, mutual respect is essential.
13. Real estate is a reputation business. What you do today may affect your reputation—and business—for years to come.

Professional Courtesy Announcements

Leave the Property As You Found It.
It’s a good idea to discuss with your seller what lights should remain on or off and communicate that message to showing agents. We’re revisiting this issue again as it seems to happen all too often. Sellers become agitated when they find their doors left unlocked, lights left on or off, and heating/air conditioning adjusted. Reports of doors left unlocked happen all too often. Sellers become especially irritated when their home is left unsecured. These security breaches can cause irreparable damage to the trust that sellers place in REALTORS®.

Promptly Provide Showing Reports to the Listing Agent.
This is a courtesy that has really fallen off in recent years. Showing reports can contain helpful information for the lister and seller. With email and texting, providing a showing report has never been easier. You can simply provide a showing report the old fashioned way by picking up the phone. Again, with today’s technologies, it’s never been easier to take a few minutes, and provide that valuable showing report.

Never Allow Unaccompanied Access to Property.
Unbelievably, reports of agents giving out lock box combinations, or allowing unauthorized access to properties continues to be a major problem. Some agents may be tempted at times to give out a lock box combination because of a busy schedule. They may also think that it is okay because a property is vacant. It is never a good idea to give out a lockbox combination.

Recently, buyers were let in to a property before closing. They began tearing plaster away from the walls to begin a renovation project; subsequently, the deal did not close! There are more problems here than just the damage—one of those unauthorized individuals working in the property could have been injured! That would open-up some serious liability issues. In another incident, the agent gave the buyer a lock box combination to look at an REO property. The buyer noticed, just in time in the dark property, that the basement stairs were missing! Again, that could have had caused some serious and unnecessary liability issues.

The Realtors® Code of Ethics Article 3, Standard of Practice 3-9 states:
Realtors® shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or the listing broker.

Politely Remind Parents to Keep Track of Their Children’s Activities as Children Can Wander and Handle the Seller’s Personal Property.
You open the door to a showing and the kids charge in and head off in every direction. It can be difficult keeping track of wild kids. What makes it worse is that agents often report that parents are lackadaisical in controlling their children. It may be uncomfortable to say, but parents need to be reminded that children need to stay with you. Children are fast and can quickly break family heirlooms and other valuables by grabbing, or knocking things over. That is never a pleasant call to make to the seller or the listing broker!

Inclement Weather
Use sidewalks. If weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside the property. Consider the use of shoe covers in inclement weather. Sellers complain that after they have worked hard to clean their home for showings, they find it tracked-up with dirty footprints. The Realtor Store sells shoe covers which work well and put people at ease who do not like to take off their shoes. Taking shoes off ahead of time, or using shoe covers, could also save you the time of running around the traveled path with paper towels wiping up foot prints!

Call if You are Delayed or Must Cancel an Appointment or Showing.
All too often, agents are not calling the listing agent when they need to cancel an appointment. Sellers become livid as they may have spent extra time cleaning, making arrangements for children and pets, or adjusting their schedules for the showing. Not placing that simple courtesy call makes the entire industry look disorganized. Please remember to call and cancel appointments ahead of time.

Never Give Out Lock Box Combinations to Unauthorized Individuals. 
Agents continue to hand-out lock box combinations to buyers. There is never a good reason to do this and you are inviting serious liability issues. In addition, providing lock box combinations does not promote and protecting the interest of the client. Listing brokers and sellers are often furious at these acts and have filed formal complaints. 

When a property is vacant, there seems to be an assumption that it is okay to allow access to workers, buyers, or investors without permission from the owner before closing. Vacant or not, the proper permission needs to be obtained. Also, co-broke agents who received a combination for a specific showing may not re-access the property without permission. 

Unfortunately, even with several reminders not to do this—it seems to keep happening. There are endless scenarios of bad things that could happen that would leave the agent who gave out the combination holding the liability bag! 

The Realtors Code of Ethics Article 3, Standard of Practice 3-9 states: 
Realtors® shall not provide access to listed property on terms other than those established by the owner or the listing broker.

Please Make Sure That Doors Are Locked When Leaving Showings.
Reports of doors left unlocked happen all too often. Sellers become especially irritated when their home is left unsecured. These security breaches can cause irreparable damage to the trust that sellers place in REALTORS®.

Leave Your Business Card. Do Not Leave Cards that Contain Advertising. 
Your business card is just that: a business communication. If you provide any marketing information that could be construed as soliciting business from the seller, you may in violation of article 16 of the REALTORS® Code of Ethics for interfering with the agency relationship of another REALTOR®.

Leave Complete Information When Calling to Set Up Showings. 
This problem, although prevalent, seems to be a common problem for agents that list condo projects. Cooperating brokers will call the lister and leave a message saying that they want to show a unit and leave a cell number for the lister to call them back. This limited information creates a problem for the listing agent. First, the listing agent may not know who you are and what unit you’re referring to. A cell number does not truly identify you. You can leave your cell, but also leave your office number and name. Criminals could easily pretend to be an agent, leave a stolen cell phone number and gain lock box combinations to listed property.

When you inquire about a showing appointment, please leave your name, company, and office number. Also, please indicate what unit you’re inquiring about, along with the date and time(s) you’re interested in setting the showing appointment. 

Communicate Clearly--Don’t Use Slang or Jargon That May Not Be Readily Understood.
“FISBO”, “Double-Pop”, and “Sign-Jumping” are just a few of the jargon terms we use in our business along with countless acronyms. Be sensitive to the use of industry terms that could be confusing or misleading to civilians! Buyers/sellers may be intimidated or annoyed at language they don’t understand. Use language that is easily understood to avoid communication problems. 

Share Information About Pets. 
It can be a frightening surprise when you’re showing a property and a big dog suddenly appears that you were not expecting! Agents are put in a very tough spot not knowing if the animal is friendly or not. More often, the dogs are so friendly that the owners/listing broker forgot to communicate the pet information. However, those first few seconds when you come eye-to-eye with a strange dog, in their domain, can be very uncomfortable and perhaps dangerous. Moreover, many people are not at ease with loose animals. If animals must remain in the house, please communicate all information about the animals to agents showing your listings. 

Animals, especially cats can often be “door darters”. It’s a waste of everyone’s precious time when you’re chasing a cat around the neighborhood or trying to coax it out from under the bushes! This is time better spent in the house. Again, please remind showing agents to be aware if the sellers have escape artist animals. Better yet, see if these pets can be secured by the seller.