Richard Haggerty | April 11, 2019

Raising the bar of professionalism. Improving the ethical standards of the industry. Expanding the competency of agents. These are discussions we have heard over the years and they continue to this day with even more urgency. HGAR President Ron Garafalo has made the mission of improving the level of professionalism in the real estate industry one of his goals for the year.

I recently returned from a conference in Austin, TX, where there was a broker panel that included Jonathan Boatwright, owner of the largest brokerage in Austin, Mark Choey, the founder of Climb Real Estate in San Francisco, and Sherry Chris, the president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens. The panel was moderated by industry powerhouse Stefan Swanepoel. The one challenge to the industry, which each of the panel members identified as being of vital importance was, you guessed it, raising the level of professionalism in the industry.

So why has there been so much discussion about this issue but apparently so little improvement. I’d suggest that it’s because there is no one silver bullet that will solve the issue. I’d also suggest that we need to look at both old solutions and new ideas to effectively raise the overall level of professionalism in the industry. In all candor, one potential solution that I believe has not been effective is mandatory ethics training every two years. Compelling someone to sit in a classroom or in front of a computer screen for three hours when they don’t want to be there is not an effective solution to the problem in my opinion.

The old solution that I think is effective is simple—talk about it–talk about the Realtor Code of Ethics in your offices and amongst your peers. Have conversations about best practices. Devote office meetings to relevant ethical issues. For those of you who are broker owners or office managers—make it your business to emphasize ethical standards and your expectations concerning your agents’ conduct. Also, make sure you hold all your agents accountable to the same standards, whether they are top producers or brand new agents.

The new idea that I think can be a game changer for raising the bar of professionalism is a program that NAR rolled out late last year called the Commitment to Excellence, or C2EX for short. C2EX doesn’t just focus on ethics (though that is a key component), it also focuses on a range of topics including Article 10 of the Code and Fair Housing, Real Estate Law, Advocacy, Trust & Integrity, Technology, Safeguard Privacy, Areas of Practice, Client Service, Professional Reputation and Broker Issues. The program is interactive and is meant to be utilized at your own pace. I challenge every member to go to the site at and take it out for a test drive.

At the end of the day, issues of ethical standards and improving levels of professionalism come down to the individual member. Each member must recognize that they need to make a personal commitment to elevate their game that doesn’t just come with attending a class or earning a designation. It comes with recognizing that the path involves life-long commitment to learning and growing as a real estate professional. Use all of the tools available to you, and I especially encourage you to utilize C2EX as one of those tools.

Richard Haggerty