Doctors, before they can be licensed to practice medicine, are required to swear an oath that begins with "first, do no harm." Therefore when you see the doctor, you can be confident that his or her first impulse is to help you, not to line their own pockets. What assurances do you get when you're hiring a real estate agent? How can you be sure that he's really got your best interests at heart? There is no official oath for the real estate profession, but there is something called the Realtor Code of Ethics. We'll tell you all about it here.

The Realtor Code of Ethics is a set of 17 articles and sub-articles known as 'practices' that lays out what the realtors' responsibilities to the client are. Article one states that the realtor's allegiance should always be to the client, but that said allegiance does not extend to misrepresenting or lying to other parties. Article 2 states that realtors should never exaggerate, misrepresent, or conceal facts about the property or the sale in question.

Article 3 requires realtors to cooperate with brokers when doing so is in the best interest of the client, so feel free to hire one to help you find your dream property. Articles 4 and 5 prevent realtors from representing themselves or their families without being upfront about it and Article 6 forbids realtors from making extra money off their clients by accepting commissions to sell them things, like homeowners insurance or mortgages unless the client is aware of it.

Article 7 prevents realtors from double dipping unless both parties know about it, while Article 8 requires them to keep their clients' money (such as commission fees) separate from their own. Article 9 requires that contracts be in clear language and Article 10 forbids discrimination. Articles 11-17 are further rules about lying in various contexts and instructions to seek arbitration in the event of a dispute.

Though it's nice to know that the people who are supposed to help you, like realtors and private mortgage lenders, aren't supposed to actively work against you, you should take care to read all documents and keep a close eye on things. Keep a reasonable amount of suspicion in all your dealings, because the language of the Code of Ethnics has enough loopholes in it that self-interested realtors can always find a way to slip their unethical practices through the cracks.



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